Coveney orders officials to ‘summon’ Russian envoy to discuss Ukraine situation

Taoiseach says military tensions on country’s border like a ‘relic from the past’

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has instructed officials at his department "to summon" the Russian ambassador Yuriy Filatov on Wednesday evening so Ireland can underline its strong views on the situation in Ukraine.

Mr Coveney said Ireland would work to ensure EU sanctions against Russia are "implemented here" including in respect business going through the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin.

“Together with our EU partners, we have urged Russia to reverse its recognition, uphold its commitment to abide by international law and return to meaningful negotiations and dialogue, without delay,” Mr Coveney told the Dáil on Wednesday evening.

“I have instructed senior officials in my departments to summon the Russian ambassador this evening, to underline Ireland’s strong views on these issues.”

Mr Coveney said that Ireland stands alongside Ukraine “at this critical moment” and reaffirmed that an attack on the country “would represent an attack on the entire rules-based international order”.

“Such an attack will be met with severe consequences,” he said, adding that diplomacy remained “the best way to resolve political differences and to preserve peace”.

The Minister said Ukraine's borders had not changed "one iota" despite the decision by Russian president Vladimir Putin to recognise the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics.

Very dark moment

Earlier, the Taoiseach said the Ukraine crisis was a “very dark moment” in European history. Micheál Martin said the scale of the militarisation on the country’s border was “something we would have thought was a relic of the past”.

He was responding in the Dáil to Labour leader Alan Kelly, who said “a full blown war” was edging closer in Ukraine and an emergency “that we probably haven’t faced in many, many decades, is on our doorstep”.

Mr Kelly also said €118 billion was moved through the Irish Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Dublin to entities in Russia between 2005 and 2017, putting Ireland “at risk of becoming the best small country in the world to funnel corrupt, dirty, Russian oligarch money”.

Mr Martin said Ireland was part of the European Union-wide sanctions regime. He said he would support a cross -party motion condemning Russian actions and that its aggression towards Ukraine was “unilaterally and without any justification whatsoever, threatening and undermining the integrity of an independent democratic state”.

He said Ireland had to send out a “very clear, strong signal” in terms of the State’s support for Ukraine sovereignty.

“It is a very dark moment for European history...It is very serious, the sheer scale of the militarisation of the border of Ukraine, it is something that we would have thought was a relic of the past in respect of what happened in World War Two or in previous wars,” Mr Martin said.

“The whole ideological approach from President Putin, the idea that the Bolsheviks got it wrong, and that Ukraine doesn’t have a right to exist, I mean that has a chilling impact on small states, like our own who enjoy 100 years of unbroken democracy.”

Mr Martin said the era of states believing they can control smaller neighbours is over and that what Mr Putin has said about Ukraine ’s independence “harks back to a completely different era, in a different century and it’s very serious”.

Meaning of EU membership

Separately, Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said on Wednesday that Ireland "needs to have a conversation with itself" about what EU membership means to us in the context of the crisis.

He said all those in political life “needed to ask what we should do” if Russian troops cross the EU’s border with Russia, which stretches more than 3,000km from Lapland in the far North to the Black Sea in the South.

Mr Kelleher said he was “not talking about sending members of the Defence Forces” to fight against Russia, but criticised that “we would be prohibited from even sending basic medical supplies and support to assist our allies’ citizens in a time of need” under his understanding of the Constitution.

Unless there was a United Nations Security Council resolution, this would not change. "As Russia would be the aggressor, it's fair to assume that such a resolution may be a long time coming," Mr Kelleher said.

Fellow member states such as Poland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia were "our allies" and "while we don't always agree with them on issues, especially Poland, they are part of the EU nonetheless," he said.

“This is an issue that all of us need to grapple with…Every EU member state is our ally. We cannot continue to look at our security and defence based on the realities of decisions made decades back. The world has changed.”