A Romanian member of the European Parliament on Thursday said that he wants Nato to bolster its military support at his country's border with Ukraine after reports of a Russian drone falling in Romanian territory – a sign of rising tensions in the Black Sea region.
MEP Vlad Gheorghe, a member of the centrist group Renew, warned that the Black Sea area is now a "hot zone" as Russia continues its attacks against Ukraine's grain infrastructure in the region.
"I'll officially ask the Nato secretary general [Jens Stoltenberg] today in writing for them to do something and get more troops there," said Mr Gheorghe, speaking after Mr Stoltenberg attended a hearing with legislators at the European Parliament in Brussels.
Ukraine informed Romania on Monday that debris from a Russian drone had fallen on Romanian territory during an overnight attack, but Bucharest at first denied the reports before changing course on Wednesday and opening an investigation.
Romania's President Klaus Iohannis said that if it is confirmed that the debris found on Romanian territory is from a Russian drone, it would be "a serious violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Romania, a Nato ally".
Speaking to journalists, Mr Gheorghe criticised his government's apparently slow response. "I'm most worried by the fact that the authorities are apparently doing nothing. We want to see troops there. We want to hear the plans of Nato and Romanian authorities – what are they doing against those drones?"
During the parliamentary hearing, Mr Stoltenberg made no promises about an increased military presence in Romania after the incident and said that Bucharest on Wednesday had informed the military alliance that "debris from a potential, possible drone had been found near the border with Ukraine".
"We don't have any information indicating any intentional attack by Russia. And we are awaiting the outcome of the ongoing investigation," he said.
"Regardless of that outcome, what we have seen of course is a lot of fighting and also air attacks close to Nato borders," he added. "And we have other incidents in Poland and elsewhere. Therefore, we have increased our vigilance and we are monitoring what is going on close to our borders."
Russia has carried out long-range air strikes on targets in Ukraine since it invaded its neighbour last year, and Kyiv has reported suspected Russian weapons flying over or crashing into neighbouring countries several times.
In the most serious incident, two people were killed in Poland by a missile that fell near the frontier in November. Poland and Nato allies later said it was a misfired Ukrainian air defence missile.
Mr Stoltenberg also told the European Parliament's foreign affairs and security and defence committees that Ukraine is making progress with a counteroffensive started in June to reclaim territory seized by Russia.
Ukrainian soldiers are "gaining ground gradually, some hundred metres per day", he said.
Mr Stoltenberg said it had to be expected that the offensive would be advancing only slowly.
"No one ever said that this was going to be easy," he said. "Hardly any time in history have we seen more mines on the battlefield than we are seeing in Ukraine today. So it was obvious that this was going to be extremely difficult.
"You have to remember that the starting point is that the Russian army used to be the second strongest in the world. And now the Russian army is the second strongest in Ukraine," Mr Stoltenberg added.
Senior western officials have said that while the Ukraine counteroffensive is "slower than anticipated", its armed forces have destroyed 50 per cent of Russia's combat power.
Mr Gheorghe described Mr Stoltenberg's assessment of the counteroffensive as positive and also praised the Ukrainian forces for their achievement.
"A couple of hundred metres, that could be 10 or 20 people dead, a hundred families in mourning," he said.
"That's a huge cost."