Russian navy military drills off coast of Ireland 'not welcome': FM

Simon Coveney says 'this is not a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine'

10:40 . 25/01/2022 Salı
Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

Ireland on Monday said Russian plans to hold navy military exercises off the coast of the country are “not welcome.”

Simon Coveney, the Irish foreign minister, said he has “made it clear” to the Russian ambassador in Ireland, Yury Filatov, that the exercises are 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,” Coveney said in Brussels, where he was to attend an EU foreign ministers meeting.

"It's important that I brief my colleagues on those intentions,” he said.

He added: "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."

The artillery drills announced by Russia will take place at the beginning of February in international waters, but within Irish-controlled airspace and the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 240 kilometers (150 miles) off the southwest Irish coast, said Coveney.

- ‘Message of unity’ needed

"This is an important day today for EU foreign ministers to reinforce a message of unity from the European Union in relation to Russian/Ukraine tension," Coveney added.

"There are two very clear messages that EU foreign ministers will want to get across today,” he said.

"First of all, a clear message and ask of Russia to defuse tension in the context of their activities on the borders of Ukraine and give reassurance to the rest of the world in terms of their intentions,” he explained, referring to the tens of thousands of Russian troops along Ukraine’s borders.

"Secondly, a strong message of unity from the EU that should Russia decide to invade Ukraine militarily, that there would be very severe consequences of that action from an EU perspective in terms of sanction and restrictions that would follow very quickly, that I think would be the most comprehensive that the EU has put together in many decades.”

Coveney added: "A message and appeal to use diplomatic means to defuse tension, but also a very strong and clear and unified message that the EU respond collectively and in a unified manner in a way that would introduce very significant measures in response to Russian military action in Ukraine."

The Russian Defense Ministry announced last Thursday that it had scheduled in January and February a series of exercises "in all areas of responsibility" for the Russian Navy.

The drills will be held in the waters of the seas adjacent to the Russian territory, as well as in "operationally important areas of the World Ocean," according to the ministry.

"Separate exercises will be held in the waters of the Mediterranean, Northern, Okhotsk Seas, in the northeastern part of the Atlantic Ocean and in the Pacific Ocean," a ministry statement added.

Over 140 warships and support vessels, more than 60 aircraft, 1,000 units of military equipment, and about 10,000 military personnel will be engaged in the exercises, it said.

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