By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
The Russian embassy in Ireland has warned of possible “ensuing consequences” in response to tributes paid to an Irishman killed while fighting in Ukraine.
The comments have been criticised by a former minister for justice as “threatening” and “chilling”.
Finbar Cafferkey, from Achill Island in Co Mayo, is reported to have been killed while serving as a military volunteer in the eastern part of Ukraine.
Mr Cafferkey had previous combat experience in the Syrian conflict, and those paying tribute to him have described him as an activist on issues such as environmentalism and migration.
In the wake of his death, Tánaiste Micheál Martin expressed his sympathies to his family and said Mr Cafferkey was “obviously a young man of clear principles”.
In response, the Russian embassy issued a stark warning to the Irish government against encouraging Irish citizens to take part in the conflict in Ukraine.
In a statement posted to its Telegram channel, the embassy said it “noted” the Tanaiste’s comments calling Mr Cafferkey “a young man of clear principles”.
The embassy said: “Every loss of life is sad and regretful.
“We do not know who Finbar Cafferkey was, except that for whatever reason he was fighting in a foreign land.
“We do not know what his principles were.
“What we do know, though, is that in a very big way it is the Government and media to who bear responsibility for the death of Finbar Cafferkey.
“It has been the Government and media who have been promoting anti-Russian propaganda, distorting the truth about the conflict in Ukraine, misleading people like Finbar Cafferkey.
“Now they face the results of their own efforts,” it said.
The embassy added: “We also do not know if Mr Martin’s remarks signify support for the Irish to take part in combat in Ukraine, but we do know that if that is the case, then Ireland would be the direct participant of the conflict with all the ensuing consequences.”
Commenting on Twitter, former justice minister Charlie Flanagan said the statement was “threatening, intimidating and chilling”.
“These hostile remarks are unacceptable,” the chairman of the foreign affairs committee said, adding that it was “beyond time” that the Russian ambassador Yury Filatov and “his crew were asked to leave our country”.