‘Ireland can understand the Ukrainian struggle for independence’

Ukrainians voice concerns outside Leinster House over possible Russian invasion

  Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland protesting outside the Dáil about  the potential invasion of their home country.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland protesting outside the Dáil about the potential invasion of their home country. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Members of Ireland’s Ukrainian community held a rally outside Leinster House on Thursday to protest against any potential invasion of their native country by Russian forces.

“We are here to protest what’s happening on the Ukrainian border and the situation in Europe in general. We very much oppose any violence,” said Artem Nedostup, one of about 50 people who attended the demonstration.

He said he wanted to “convey a message to Ireland, because like no other country, Ireland can understand the Ukrainian struggle for independence for so long and the imperial power still not yielding it”.

Ukraine became an independent nation in 1991 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, but there has been significant tension on its frontier with Russia recently.

While Russian president Vladimir Putin has denied he plans to invade Ukraine, his country Russia has amassed about 100,000 troops on Ukraine’s border. In 2014, Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Mr Nedostup said the latest developments were a case of “Russia flexing its muscles again”.

“It’s invaded Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, it’s shown very aggressive actions in Syria. We don’t want to see a war in Europe,” he said, adding that planned Russian naval exercises off the Irish coast were another cause for concern.

‘Very worried’

“It’s a threat not only to the biodiversity of the region, but it could be dangerous to Ireland too, it’s right off the coast,” he said.

Oleksandra Pishtheiko said she would also be “very worried” to see Russian warships off the coast of Ireland.

This, she said, was “because those ships are the ones that might then go and fight in Ukraine against my brother, my father and anyone else who is going to protect my country”.

Ms Pishtheiko said she her family back in Ukraine were very worried about the border situation.

“My mother-in-law called us crying a few days ago asking, ‘What am I going to do?’. She’s living in the east close to the border. We’re all very worried.”

A man named Vadym, who is from Ukraine and has been living in Ireland for almost seven years, said he was “very concerned” for his family back home.

“I’m living alone here. My sister, my mum and my daughters all live in Ukraine, that’s why I’m worried,” he said. “I could have gone to any other country but I came here because of Ireland’s history, the Irish understand us, and I think they support us, and want to help us.”

Michael Baskin, director of the Association of Ukrainians in Ireland, said that following the annexation of Crimea in 2014 some people in Ukraine have become “immune to the emotions” of worrying about war.

He said he was worried for his sister, who lives near the Russian border, but noted that the tensions had “brought a sense of unity” among Ukrainians in Ireland.

“You can feel the unity here, in all the people who showed up today. We’re here to remind Irish TDs, politicians and diplomats that we are here, living in Ireland, and we would like them to do whatever is possible in their way to stop the war,” he said.