Rally set to proceed marking 1945 Red army victory over Nazis

Ukrainian communities fear midlands cavalcade a covert attempt to back Russian invasion

Organisers of a Victory Day convoy have been told by gardaí they have no authorisation to stop the event proceeding.

A group called the Council of the Russian Compatriots in Ireland (Corc) is organising a cavalcade from the M4 Applegreen service station in Enfield, Co Meath, to the Circle K garage on the M6 in Athlone, Co Westmeath, on Sunday morning.

The procession is to celebrate the Soviet Union’s involvement in defeating the Nazis in the second World War, which is normally marked on May 9th annually.

There have been calls by the Ukrainian community in Ireland to have the event banned. They fear it will be a pro-Russian rally, while Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan have called on those involved not to allow it to go ahead.

A spokesman for the organisers, who declined to give his name citing security reasons, said they had always informed gardaí on previous times when the Victory Day rally took place, usually in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

In an email sent to the organisers, gardaí said they had “no role in policing, organising or authorisation for such an event”.

The spokesman said: “We never asked them to organise it, we have asked them for their assistance. We had a conversation with them. Everything will be fine.”

He said he is still hopeful gardaí will be present to ensure the cavalcade is not blocked from leaving the service station.

The spokesman stressed that the event is not for the Russian community alone, but for all republics of the old Soviet Union, including Ukraine, that were involved in defeating Nazi Germany.

He said Victory Day events have been going on in Dublin for at least 10 years and claimed Russians were frequently in a minority at them.

On the Corc's Facebook page, there are photographs from a previous rally in 2019 which shows Ukrainian, Kazakhstan, Moldovan and Soviet flags among those present.

The photographs also show Russian ambassador Yury Filatov, who attended several events. The Corc spokesman said there will be no Russian government presence this year at the rally "for obvious reasons".

No symbols supporting the Russian war in Ukraine, most notably the letter Z, which is associated with Russian military vehicles, will be allowed on any of the convoy vehicles.

When asked if Russian flags will be allowed, the spokesman replied that they would be. He added Russians were entitled to take pride in their country even if they disagreed with their government’s actions in Ukraine.

Peaceful intention

The council has sent an open letter to the Taoiseach and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris asking them not to stop the cavalcade.

The letter, which is published in English and Russian on Corc’s Facebook page, states: “This event has been bringing many nationalities and people together for many years in Ireland. The majority of people in our event, including women and kids as parts of families against any war anywhere in the world, did not support any military actions in any countries. This will be an exclusively peaceful car convoy.

"There will be no compromising symbols on the cars of any participants. Only flags of 15 past-Soviet Union Republics (USSR) will be present at the time [and] Irish, Russian, Ukrainian, Moldovan, Latvian, Lituanian, Kazakhstan, etc. This will be one of the obligatory conditions of the organisers of the convoy. It is a strictly peaceful convoy."

The Association of Ukrainians in the Republic of Ireland has called on the Government to ban the rally. It said the real purpose is to not to celebrate Victory Day, but to “support Putin and help him justify his barbaric invasion of Ukraine”.

The organisation said the rally offends the Irish people along with Ukrainians in Ireland because of the Russian invasion.

"Unlike in Russia, Ireland is a country where freedom of speech is respected. But let us not use this freedom to promote a brutal dictator's hateful war against an innocent people," it said.