Russia's ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov said that the country's navy military exercises off the southwest Irish coast planned for next month are not a threat to Ireland.
Speaking at a press conference at the Russian embassy in south Dublin on Monday evening, Mr Filatov said that the naval exercises and training have been carried out routinely by different naval forces, including Russia’s, in this part of the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean for many years.
“This is not in any way a threat to Ireland or anybody else. No harm is intended, no problem is expected,” he said.
The ambassador said that he told Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney when they spoke that there were "no grounds for concern for the Irish side" over these exercises.
Mr Coveney had said that the naval exercises were “not welcome.” Mr Filatov said that he had relayed the minister’s concerns to Moscow.
The ambassador said that it would be “a small exercise - maybe three or four ships, not more.”
“There is nothing really to be disturbed, concerned or anguished about. I have extensively explained that to the Irish colleagues,” he said.
Mr Filatov said he was unaware if any missiles would be fired during the exercise or whether the Russian navy would be using submarines.
Asked about possible disruption to marine life or potential damage to underwater communications cables in the area where the exercise is taking place, he said: “No harm whatsoever is intended to infrastructure, marine life, air traffic, maritime traffic.”
He said that Russia had notified the Irish authorities that its navy would be conducting the exercises in the Irish exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and that “all rules pertaining to the safety of air and maritime traffic will be strictly followed.”
Mr Filatov described “the whole hoopla” around the exercises as a “non-story” that has been “hugely overblown,” saying that headlines had presented it in “almost apocalyptic overtones.”
Asked whether Russia would consider calling off the exercises in light of the Irish Government’s concerns about them, Mr Filatov said: “Why would we do so?”
The diplomat claimed that the concern about the exercises off the Irish coast "fits in the ongoing propaganda campaign by the US and its Nato allies" to create "an illusion" that Russia was about to invade Ukraine imminently.
Mr Filatov said he expected Irish and other EU governments to look seriously at ways the European Union could help resolve matters between the US, Nato and Russia "rather than whipping up tensions in the region with irresponsible and alarmist rhetoric."
He expressed Russia’s concern about Nato’s “steady advance” towards its western borders.
Anti-war group Afri has called for a de-escalation of military build-up by all sides around Ukraine and said that the EU could play "a positive role" in the finding a negotiated settlement of disputes between Russia and Ukraine.
It described Russia’s amassing of troops on the Ukrainian border as “unwelcome.”
“All threats of, or preparation for, conflict serve to escalate an already dangerous situation as well as constituting a waste of resources that could be used to feed the hungry and protect the planet rather than fuel the flames of war,” said the group.