Four Irish babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine in recent days have been safely evacuated from the war-torn country, The Irish Times understands.
The infants, including a set of twins, were brought by medical staff on the 24-hour journey from the Russian-targeted Ukrainian capital Kyiv to the country’s southwestern border.
The children, who are all Irish citizens, were united with their Irish parents after the couples were flown to Romania on Wednesday night on an Irish Air Corps PC-12 aircraft in an operation described by sources as "humanitarian" in nature.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence have declined to comment. A spokesman for Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he could not comment on consular issues.
“Everybody is safe – they are okay,” said a Government source.
People have been fleeing Ukraine over border crossings with Romania, Moldova and Poland in the western part of the country as Russian military forces advance further into the country and fighting intensifies in Kyiv and Ukrainian cities in the eastern and southern part of the country.
As part of the repatriation operation, the Irish military aircraft flew from Dublin to Nuremberg in Germany and on to Rzeszow Jasionka Airport in eastern Poland, before continuing on to the Romanian capital Bucharest on Wednesday night.
The PC-12 departed Bucharest’s Henri Coanda International Airport on Thursday landing in Germany en route back to Dublin, according to the aircraft tracking website, Flight Aware.
The parents and infants were not expected to travel back on the Air Corps aircraft because it is unsuitable for transporting newborn babies.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar disclosed details of the births of four Irish babies to surrogate mothers in Ukraine earlier this week when he was making the case against the expulsion of Russia's ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov.
Mr Varadkar was speaking about the need to maintain relations with Russia despite growing calls for Mr Filatov to be expelled by the Government over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
Mr Coveney and officials in his department are providing consular assistance to other Irish families who are expecting babies through surrogate mothers in Ukraine in the coming weeks.
Ukraine is a popular location for Irish couples seeking to have babies via surrogate mothers, with 14 Irish babies due to be born in the country between February and May of this year.
Fine Gael Senator Mary Seery Kearney, who is helping Irish couples having babies through surrogates in Ukraine, said she was unable to comment about the return of the four babies.
Earlier this week, she said a channel of dialogue needs to remain open with the Russians in the event that the Government needs to call on Moscow’s assistance to evacuate Irish babies.
Irish Families Through Surrogacy, a support group, is liaising with Irish couples who are due to collect babies born by surrogacy over the coming weeks.