Military aircraft assisting operation to bring surrogate babies born in Ukraine to Ireland

Source says ‘a number of civilians’, believed to be parents of the newborns, on plane

The Government has dispatched a military aircraft to assist in the repatriation of Irish babies born to surrogate mothers in Ukraine.

The babies were born at a maternity hospital in Kyiv and were on Wednesday evening being taken by road to the Ukraine border accompanied by medical staff. The trip was expected to take around 24 hours.

The repatriation operation saw an aircraft dispatched to an airport in eastern Europe. An Irish Air Corps PC-12 Aircraft travelled from Ireland to Germany and departed from Nuremburg just after 6pm on Wednesday evening.

It flew west across the Czechia for this purpose. It landed in Rzeszow Jasionka Airport in eastern Poland a short time later, according to the flight tracking website, FlightAware. It later flew to the Romanian capital Bucharest as part of the operation that has been described as "humanitarian" in nature.

A source said that “the aircraft left Dublin with a number of civilians”. It is understood that these are the Irish parents of the newborn babies.

The volatile military situation in Ukraine makes the journey of the medical staff and babies westwards from Kyiv unpredictable with the potential to have to change the location of the border crossing and the final destination, if necessary.

The Defence Forces and the Department of Foreign Affairs have declined to comment on the operation.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and officials in his department have been working closely with Irish families and support groups involved in trying to get newborn Irish babies back from Ukraine.

Russian forces are beginning to attack Kyiv from the air ahead of an expected ground invasion. It is currently attacking several other cities around the country. The Irish infants, including a set of twins, are expected to be met by their parents.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar disclosed the fact that the four babies had been born in recent days in Kyiv in making the case against the expulsion of Russia's ambassador to Ireland Yuriy Filatov.

Maintain relations

He was speaking about the need to maintain relations with Russia despite growing public and political calls for Mr Filatov's expulsion over Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.

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 the Irish couples, said on Tuesday that there was a need to have a channel of dialogue open with the Russians in the event that the Government needs to call on Moscow's assistance to evacuate the Irish babies from Ukraine.

She said that “all options” were being explored to find ways to repatriate the newborn Irish citizens with the possibility of a humanitarian corridor to create safe passage out of the country.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said it was “very possible” that the State would accommodate more than 20,000 refugees fleeing Ukraine.

Government departments and Ministers are drawing up plans for how the State can respond to the crisis.

Irish families

Earlier on Wednesday, Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman said the Government did not have immediate plans to call on Irish families to host Ukrainian refugees.

The option is being kept open but hotels are expected to be used in the short term.

Asked about the prospect of families hosting refugees, Mr Martin said: “Everything depends on the scale of what happens.”

On the question of neutrality, Mr Martin said this was a “policy issue that can change at any time”, although Ireland’s participation in any European common defence initiative would require a referendum.

He said Ireland was part of the European Union and supported its ideals which are under pressure from regimes like Russia and “it would be naive in the extreme not to reflect on that”.

Mr Varadkar said fresh consideration should be given to Irish security policy in light of the Russian invasion. “I think we’ll need to think about deeper involvement in European defence.”