Ireland to close its airspace to Russian planes as Ukraine invasion continues

Ireland is to close off its airspace to all Russian aircraft, as the invasion of Ukraine continues.

On Sunday morning, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that Ireland will move to shut off the country’s airspace to Russian planes.

He tweeted: “Shocking Russian attacks on Ukraine overnight. Ireland will move to shut off Irish airspace to all Russian aircraft.”

Mr Coveney also called on other EU countries to do the same.

A special vigil calling for peace and solidarity with the people of Ukraine takes place at Belfast City Hall on Friday evening.

Various European countries – including the Czech Republic, Slovenia and the Baltic nations of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania – have already decided to close their airspace to Russian airlines.

The UK has made a similar decision.

“We encourage other EU partners to do the same,” Mr Coveney said.

Meanwhile an Irish minister has said that he is “proud” of his party colleagues who have called for the expulsion of the Russian ambassador.

Fianna Fail TD Thomas Byrne, who is the minister for European affairs, said on Sunday the expulsion of Russian diplomats from EU countries was “under discussion”.

It comes amid growing pressure in Ireland for Yury Filatov to be expelled from the country over the actions of Russian in Ukraine.

On Saturday evening, nearly 40 Fianna Fail TDs, senators and MEPs signed a petition calling on Mr Filatov to be ejected from Ireland.

The list included TDs Jim O’Callaghan and Dara Calleary, as well as senators Lisa Chambers and Fiona O’Loughlin.

The chair of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee and senior Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan also tweeted a call for the ambassador to be forced to leave Ireland.

“I’m very proud of my Fianna Fail colleagues who have taken consistently a proud stand for Ukraine, for democracy and against the autocracy in Russia over the years, particularly in the European Parliament, but also in the Dail and yesterday,” Mr Byrne told the BBC on Sunday.

He indicated that such action was being discussed in the EU, but cautioned such a move would lead to a response from Russia.

“It’s under discussion, there’s no question, but it’ll be done on a European level.

“I think we’ll have much greater effect if we all make a move together.

“There are certain factors we have to take into account.

“You must keep lines of communication open, but also you must ensure that your own diplomats in Russia are not kicked out either because then you’re at a disadvantage, obviously then dealing with Irish citizens or other European citizens who may be there.