TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has said he is “very, very concerned” about a speech given by President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, which he said contained the “serious” threat of nuclear deployment, and would lead to the further “needless killing of young people” on all sides.
In a seven-minute televised address to the nation aired on Wednesday morning, Putin announced the partial mobilisation of up to 300,000 reservists in Russia.
It is the first mobilisation in Russia since the Second World War and comes amid battlefield losses for the Kremlin’s forces in recent weeks.
In his address, Putin also said that Russia would “use all the means at our disposal” to protect itself, alluding to nuclear warfare, and insisting his threat is “not a bluff”.
The Taoiseach said that Putin’s remarks about nuclear deployment and decision to mobilise are “worrying”, and called on him to stop the war and declare a ceasefire.
Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, added that the partial mobilisation “will prolong this tragic, illegal conflict and increase deaths”.
Putin said he had already signed the decree for partial mobilisation, which was due to start on Wednesday.
The partial mobilisation announcement led to an apparent scramble amongst Russians to leave the country, as Russian media reported a sharp spike in demand for plane tickets abroad.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs said that the mobilisation announced by Putin will “only serve to prolong this tragic, illegal conflict and increase suffering and loss of life”.
They also said the department “condemn(s) unequivocally any and all nuclear threats” as use of nuclear weapons would “result in devastating humanitarian consequences”. They highlighted that even the threat of their use is a violation of international law.
Miceál O’Hurley, Editor-in-Chief of Diplomacy in Ireland: The European Diplomat, and former US special forces soldier now living in Youghal, said that Putin’s veiled threats of nuclear warfare shows that the only tool left at his disposal is terror.
“It's the inflection point in Ukraine. Russia cannot win this… the fact that he's doing that now shows that they can't win militarily. The only tool Putin has left is terror, the threat of nuclear weapons,” he said.
“He is willing to create another Chernobyl that will poison all of Europe, in the hopes that people say, please just stop and we'll give you what you want. We have to now reconcile that Russia is not a rational actor. That the only victory can be a total victory. That's the only thing that's going to save our Europe,” he added.
Mr O’Hurley also highlighted that Putin has continuously targeted civilian infrastructure to “take away the will of the Ukrainian people to survive”, and that heading into the sub-zero temperatures of Ukrainian winter the continued attacks will amount to a “genocide dressed up as a military operation”.
Voyteck Bialek, CEO of charity Together-Razem which has been supporting those who have arrived into Ireland from Ukraine since the invasion began, said that there are talks that Putin’s decision to mobilise could indicate a “breaking point for the whole war”.
“There are some talks that this whole mobilization proves that Putin is weaker than then we all thought, that he has no manpower actually to fight Ukraine,” he said.
Together-Razem has provided one on one support to over 1,100 Ukrainian refugees since the conflict began in February. They have provided over 1,700 individual interventions such as support sessions, accompaniment, form filling, document translation, outreach and in-reach, English classes, employment support, and trauma counselling sessions.
While Mr Bialek said that some Ukrainians have started to return to their home country in recent times, there are still roughly 1,000 people per week arriving into Ireland, fleeing the ongoing conflict.
“By next year, March, we could have 80,000 Ukrainians here, and this specific situation could even force more people to leave Ukraine because of the fear what might happen,” he said.