Ryanair criticised by Ukraine ambassador for prices on routes used by refugees

Embassy gives list of Irish firms trading with Russia to Government asking that ties be cut

The Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland has criticised Ryanair for raising its prices on flights from Poland to Dublin - a route being used by Ukrainian refugees fleeing the conflict.

Larysa Gerasko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Ireland, told the the Oireachtas EU Affairs Committee that she is seeking a meeting with Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan on the matter.

Senator Sharon Keogan said this was “unforgivable”, and Senator Gerry Horkan said the carrier should be putting on flights free of charge.

Ms Gerasko also called for increased reception facilities outside of Dublin airport, and more translators.

List of companies

The meeting also heard the Ukrainian embassy has given a list of Irish companies trading with Russia to the Government, asking that trade and economic ties be cut between the two countries.

Ms Gerasko told the Oireachtas Committee on EU Affairs that she had passed the list to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“We have some list of companies affiliated with Ireland, and actually we passed this list of companies to DFA for its consideration in order to cut trade and economic relations,” she said.

Olena Shaloput, the embassy's Charges D'Affaires, said Ukraine was asking that Ireland "review all the economic links with Russia and where it is possible for you, we kindly ask you to cut these ties".

In a wide-ranging plea for increased action from EU countries, she said sanctions against Russia are working but are “not enough”.

“We haven’t time to wait, that is the main message,” she said, arguing that every hour meant dozens of human lives being lost. She questioned why further progress hadn’t been made on the expulsion of diplomats, and asked why Irish ports remain open to Russian ships - even as the skies are closed to flights from Russian airlines.

Regina Doherty, the Fine Gael senator and leader of the Seanad, said the fact that Irish companies are doing business with Russia and that diplomats have not been expelled is “not good enough”.

“We all need to be far more vocal than we have been,” she said.

Ms Gerasko said she is working on a request from the Oireachtas that President Volodomyr Zelenskyy give an address to the Irish parliament.

Ms Gerasko, who was giving evidence to the EU affairs committee on Ukraine’s application for membership of the bloc, cited polls that show 86 per cent support for EU integration in the country, saying accession unites the whole country.

She called for a trade embargo on coal from Russia, measures to prevent it from using crypto-currency to circumvent sanctions, and the closure of ports to Russian vessels. She asked that private business be encouraged to divest from Russian assets, and that visas and residency permits should be stopped.

“The less dollars Russian business earns and the less taxes the Russian state receives, the less opportunity the Russian military will have to kill our people.”

Ukraine appreciates decisions taken at an EU leaders summit in Versaille last week to acknowledge the aspirations of the country to membership, the committee heard, but she said: "As stated by president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the decision should have been stronger."

She said Ukraine is a “pluralistic democracy” with a tradition of free elections, and pointed to popular uprisings in 2004 and 2014 which “halted the threat to democracy and defended European values”, as well as Ukranian support for EU statements on international development, and regulation.

She pointed to the integration of the Ukranian energy system “even amid the military aggression”, saying significant progress has been made in economic integration between the two.

She warned the committee that the capture of the mayor of Melitopol, Ivan Federov, shows Russian forces have "switched to a new stage of terror" and is a crime "not only against a particular person, but against democracy as such".

“There will come a time and the actions of the Russian invaders will be equated to the actions of Isis terrorists.”

She thanked Ireland for its support at what she says was an “unprecedentedly horrible time for my country”, especially for the people of Ireland and their “huge response to Russia’s war in Ukraine”.

‘Non-stop airstrike’

Ms Gerasko described how Russian troops are “simultaneously attacking Ukraine” from different directions, with Belarusian territory being actively used for the launching of missiles, and transport and logistics networks also being used.

She told the committee that Russia has fired “hundreds of cruises and operational-tactical missiles at residential areas” as well as military positions, and a “non-stop full-scale airstrike on critical civilian infrastructure”. The committeeheard that childcare facilities, schools, universities, hospitals, airports, fuel stations, bridges and water infrastructure are being targeted.

The ambassador said Russia has failed to reach its key goals. “Ukraine did not surrender in three days, as [the] Kremlin was expected. Kyiv as a political and military command centre remains intact.”

She said Russia took an "unconstructive stance" during a meeting between its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, and his Ukranian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, last week.

Mariupol, with a mainly Russian speaking population, has been "totally destroyed", Ms Gerasko said, attributing 1,200 civilian deaths to fighting in the city, while she said the shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant put the entirety of Europe "on the brink of nuclear catastrophe".

She raised the capture of, and subsequent power cut at, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant: “No one understands what is happening in Chernobyl and what is threatening the region.”

Russia, meanwhile, is searching for “fake pretexts” for its war, she said. “Various Russian officials also falsely accuse Ukraine of non-existent biological or chemical weapons,” she told the committee, saying Russia may “prepare a horrific false flag operation”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times