Expulsion of Russian diplomats from Ireland would be ‘unfriendly action’

Russian ambassador responds after Varadkar says expulsions are being considered

An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that the Irish government is to run a security assessment over Russian diplomats based in Ireland following the UK's decision to expel 23 Russian officials in the wake of the Salisbury attack. Video: EU Council

 

Any expulsion of Russian diplomats from Ireland would be treated as an “unfriendly action”, the Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, has warned.

He was responding to comments by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who raised the prospect of action against Russia as a reaction to the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England. The UK government has blamed the poisoning on Russia.

Speaking in Brussels, Mr Varadkar said the Government would consider whether to expel Russian diplomats in Dublin over the coming days in solidarity with the UK’s retaliatory response to the nerve-agent attack on the former spy in England.

Mr Varadkar said a security assessment would be carried out on Russian diplomats and their activities in Ireland to assess whether they were covertly working as intelligence agents.

“What we will now consider in the coming days is whether we want to take individual action relating to Russian diplomats in Ireland. Bear in mind what the United Kingdom did was to expel 23 diplomats who they believed weren’t actually diplomats; [they] were agents,” Mr Varadkar told reporters.

Russia denies any involvement in the nerve-agent attack, although EU leaders have said they support Britain and hold the Kremlin responsible.

Expulsion

Asked on Friday morning at a press briefing for journalists at the Russian embassy in Dublin if the expulsion of diplomats from Ireland would be a hostile act, Mr Filatov said: “Every time that kind of thing happens certainly you would think of it as an unfriendly action, and that’s certain.

“I heard comments by the Taoiseach this morning to the effect that the Irish Government contemplates some sort of measures towards the diplomatic presence of Russia here in Ireland,” Mr Filatov said.

“Well, to tell you frankly, there is nothing at this moment to comment on since we have not had any communications from the Foreign Minister on that matter.”

However, Mr Filatov said he hoped “the Irish Government will use the best of the Irish common sense”.

He said it would “be counter-productive and impossible for me to prejudge any hypotheticals, so we’ll just have to wait and see what are the grounds for any decision, if there is a decision”.

The ambassador criticised what he said was the “irresponsible and baseless line of the British government”, and warned the British were “trying to manipulate and influence; impose their own highly unlikely things and formulas on the European partners”.

He also warned that “some countries are led, manipulated into fighting someone else’s unjust war, and that’s really regrettable”.

Established facts

He again denied Russia was in any way involved in the Salisbury poisonings.

“Our position remains that any kind of conclusion should be made only on the basis of well-known established facts as a result of a really credible investigation. One which preferably would be by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and we stand ready as we were from the very beginning to participate in this investigation, following the procedures of this international organisation.”

“We do not know any facts, only accusations aimed at Russia,” said Mr Filatov.