Ireland likely to increase spending on military support to Ukraine - Varadkar

Tánaiste said Ireland would provide asylum to Russian citizens fleeing conscription ‘if their story stands up’

Ireland will not only continue spending tens of millions of euro on military aid to assist Ukraine, but it will likely increase its spending as the war continues.

“Support for Ukraine will continue. If anything, it will increase - let’s not forget that part of the reason we are facing this cost-of-living crisis is because Vladimir Putin is using energy and food as a weapon of war,” said Tánaiste Leo Varadkar. Ireland has, so far, contributed €55 million worth of military aid to Ukraine since the Russia invasion seven months ago, as part of an EU package. Irish funds are used exclusively for non-lethal military assistance.

“If we don’t help Ukraine it won’t stop there. I guarantee you [Putin] will threaten other countries. He will threaten more of his neighbours and that will result in a greater risk of famine around the world and a greater energy crisis for the rest of Europe, so we absolutely have to stand by Ukraine. It is not just their war, it is ours as well,” said the Tánaiste.

Speaking at a Fine Gael business conference at Thomond Park in Limerick on Saturday, Mr Varadkar said Ireland would provide asylum to Russian citizens, including those who flee conscription to Putin’s army.

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“Any Russian person who is fleeing Russia is like anyone [else]. They have the right to apply for international protection, and if they make an application it will be considered, and if their story stands up, they will be granted international protection. And if it doesn’t, then they won’t,” Mr Varadkar said.

“The same rules that would apply to anyone would apply to Russian citizens. Those fleeing Russia have a right to apply for international protection. They don’t necessarily have the right to get it, it has to be assessed and their story has to be checked out,” he added.

Speaking at the United Nations in New York on Friday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the question of whether Ireland would be prepared to accept Russian asylum seekers would have to be assessed. “We are accepting Ukrainian families who are fleeing war. That has been a priority for us, along with normal asylum-seeking applicants, which is kind of way up this year. That is putting a lot of pressure on the country. So we have to work within our capacities, to be frank. But we’ve never refused people who are fleeing because of conscience issues or fleeing persecution.”

The Taoiseach said that Russia was behaving like a ‘rogue state’ and should lose its permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

The BBC reported on Saturday that queues were forming at the Russian border as people sought to flee conscription after President Putin announced the mobilisation of at least 300,000 troops. The line at the border between Russia and Georgia was approximately 10km long on Saturday morning, where people have reportedly been waiting more than 20 hours to cross. - Additional reporting by The Guardian