The Czech Republic is ready to offer the services of 300 soldiers and four Gripen fighter jets for the protection of NATO members Defence Minister Martin Stropnický announced on Thursday evening in light of the continuing crisis in Ukraine. The announcement came after NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced a bolstering of alliance country defences a day earlier, including fighter jets and sea power in the Baltic as well as the east Mediterranean. The NATO head and other top officials have sharply criticised the amassing of troops by Russia on the Ukraine border. In talks in Geneva on Thursday, Russia, Ukraine, the EU and the US agreed to steps aimed at de-escalating the situation. The steps were welcomed cautiously by the White House which is waiting to see how the deal translates on the ground.