Russian sea exercises not welcome: Ireland

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has said that plans by Russia to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland are “not welcome”.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, right, is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, right, is greeted by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg prior to a meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, Pool)

The move comes as tensions between Russia and the West over the Russia/Ukraine border are said to be ‘soaring’.

The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters, but within Irish controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Simon Coveney said the exercises are to take place 150 miles off the Irish south-west coast.

In compliance with legal requirements, Russia informed Ireland’s aviation authorities of the planned activities in advance.

The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) insisted there would be no impact to the safety of civil aircraft operations.

Mr Coveney said Ireland does not have the powers to prevent it from happening.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Mr Coveney said: “I have made it clear to the Russian Ambassador in Ireland (Yury Filatov) that it’s not welcome.

“This is not a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.

“Russia, under international law, can take military exercises in international waters, but the fact they are choosing to do it on the west borders of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that is in our view not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks.”

Mr Coveney was in Brussels yesterday for a scheduled meeting with other EU foreign ministers at which the ongoing tensions on the Russia/Ukraine border were discussed.

Nato has outlined a series of potential troop and ship deployments as concerns abound that Moscow is planning to invade Ukraine.

The Western alliance’s statement summed up moves already announced by individual member countries, but restating them under the Nato banner appeared to be aimed at showing the alliance’s resolve.

Russia has massed an estimated 100,000 troops near Ukraine’s border and is demanding that Nato promise it will never allow Ukraine to join and that other actions, such as stationing alliance troops in former Soviet bloc countries, be curtailed.

Some of these, such as any pledge to permanently bar Ukraine, are non-starters for Nato – creating a seemingly intractable stand-off that many fear can only end in war.

Russia denies it is planning an invasion, and has said the Western accusations are merely a cover for Nato’s own planned provocations.

Nato yesterday said that it is beefing up its “deterrence” in the Baltic Sea area.

Secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance will “take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies”.