Irish chief-of-staff meets Russian ambassador to discuss defence issues

Russians will conduct live naval firing exercise off the Irish coast next month

Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov. File image: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov. File image: Dara Mac Donaill/The Irish Times

 

The Russian ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov and the Chief of Defence Staff Lieut Gen Seán Clancy have met to discuss armed contacts between the two countries.

The meeting took place on Friday at the Russian embassy in Orwell Road, Dublin.

It was announced in a tweet from the embassy on Friday evening: “On January 21 the Ambassador of #Russia to #Ireland Y.Filatov met with the Member of the Chief of Defence Staff of Ireland S.Clancy.

“Parties discussed the issues of Russia-Ireland relations and international agenda, as well as prospects of contacts between (the) armed forces of (the) two countries.”

In response the Department of Defence said the meeting was a “routine courtesy call”.

A spokeswoman added: “As the recently appointed Chief of Staff, it is normal for foreign ambassadors to pay routine courtesy calls. This is one of a series of meetings. Such meetings are a matter for the chief of staff, not the minister. There is no ongoing military cooperation with Russia and there is no intention to do so.”

A spokesman for the Minister for Defence Simon Coveney has not responded yet to the tweet.

Live fire exercise

Independent TD Cathal Berry said he believed the meeting has to do with a proposed naval exercise that the Russian navy intends to undertake in February.

The live firing exercise will happen 240km off the Irish coast outside Irish territorial waters, but within the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The Irish Aviation Authority has sent a notification to air traffic control in Ireland stating that the live firing exercises will take place between February 3rd and 8th and between 5am and 3pm on those days. The area in question is off the southwest coast.

The IAA states that “pursuant to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)annexs 11,15 and for safety of air traffic in the area you are kindly requested to issue international notam (a notice to airmen) to temporarily close above area for flights from surface to 11,000 metres”.

Dr Berry, a former army ranger, said the live firing exercise, while being legal, is a “warning to Ireland that we are military weak”.

He believed it was designed as an international provocation as it is close to flight paths and underwater submarine cables.

The Irish talks took place while negotiations ended between Russia and the United States in Geneva without agreement.

There are fears that Russia will invade Ukraine after Moscow massed tens of thousands of troops at the border, while the west has ramped up supplies of weapons to Kyiv.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov met for about 90 minutes in Geneva at what the American diplomat said was a “critical moment”. Expectations had been low going in, and there was no breakthrough.

Mr Blinken told Mr Lavrov the US would give Russia written responses to Moscow’s proposals next week, and suggested the two would likely meet again shortly after that – offering some hope that any invasion would be delayed for at least a few more days.