THE foreign affairs minister has said that plans by Russia to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland are “not welcome”.
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 240 kilometres (150 miles) off the Irish south-west coast.
Mr Coveney is expected to brief the Cabinet on the developments on Tuesday.
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.
“It’s important that I brief my colleagues on those intentions.
“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.” Tánaiste Leo Varadkar later echoed Coveney’s comments that the Russian exercises are “not welcome”, and said Cabinet would discuss the issue on Tuesday.
“In relation to the situation with regard to Russia, I’ve been briefed on that by Minister Coveney. I expect he will brief Cabinet on it tomorrow as well,” he said.
“While the Russian military can, within the law, carry out these exercises off our waters and in our economic zone, they’re certainly unwelcome."
The Russian ambassador to Ireland described it as a "non story".
At a press conference in the Russian Embassy on Monday, Yury Filatov said: “It has been hugely overblown. These exercises are part of the yearly plan of naval activity for 2022.” He said the exercises were not a threat to Ireland or anyone else.
“No harm is intended and no problem is expected. All that has been communicated to our colleagues at the Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland.” He said that the real story “lies elsewhere”.
“It looks like the topic of exercises fits in the ongoing propaganda campaign waged by the US and its Nato allies to create an illusion of a Russian threat to Ukraine.
“I think we all witness a daily drumbeat emanating primarily from Washington and London, other Nato capitals, about imminent invasion of Ukraine by Russia.
“I will say once again, it is a fake.”
However, he played down Irish concerns and indicated it was unlikely that any navy military exercises would be called off.
He said: “Why would we do so?
“Attention is something that will pass but plans for military training as it does, it takes much time to put together. It’s an effort and I don’t see any reason for changing that because there are no problems actually.” Mr Filatov has already spoken with Mr Coveney about the issue, a conversation he described as “open” and “productive”.