Coveney calls for end to Russian ‘madness’ as he visits mass grave in Bucha

Speaking in Ukraine, Minister highlights ‘likely’ war crimes and announces €3m for ICC

Ireland will continue to use its position on the United Nations Security Council to call for an end to the "madness" of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said, as he visited the site of a mass grave in Bucha where more than 50 bodies were found.

Speaking earlier at a press conference in Kyiv alongside his Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, Mr Coveney said the "brutality and violence" against civilians, women and children in Ukraine was "something that is likely to be determined as war crimes in the future".

Ireland was a small country but had an “important position” on the UN Security Council, he said. “We intend on using that voice to undermine disinformation when it comes, but also to demand accountability and decisions on a multilateral level,” he said.

The State was advocating for a “maximalist” approach to sanctions on Russia as a “deterrent to the continuation of this war”, Mr Coveney said. “We believe we need to move beyond what has currently been collectively agreed by the EU to include an oil embargo in a sixth package of sanctions,” he added.

The Minister reiterated that the Republic was “not neutral on this war or on this conflict”, adding that he brought a message of solidarity from the Irish Government and the Irish people.

“I am also very conscious at this time that Ukraine doesn’t need sympathy, Ukraine needs action and strong practical support,” he said.

Mr Coveney said the State had already contributed €33 million to support the Ukrainian military, for non-lethal supplies such as body armour, medicine and fuel. He announced the Government would contribute an extra €3 million to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to support work investigating possible war crimes in Ukraine.

“We also believe even the most powerful countries in the world are accountable to international law,” he told the press conference, which was recorded in a secure location in the Ukrainian capital.

“We will strongly advocate that your [Ukraine’s] journey to EU membership happens as rapidly as possible,” he added.

Chemical weapons

From next month the State would sit on the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons executive council, which, Mr Coveney said, it would use “to ensure any use of chemical weapons is followed up on by the international community, and those responsible are held to account”.

There had been “disturbing reports” from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol about risks of chemical weapons in recent days, he said.

The State had accepted about 23,000 Ukrainian refugees, and as a country was “doing everything we can to make our home your home”, he said.

Mr Coveney told his Ukrainian counterpart that even in the “darkest hours” it was important to “think about the possibility of peace”.

“There will be a tomorrow when your country will emerge from this darkness and the aggression coming from Russia . . . The future of Ukraine is a bright one,” he said. Those who had caused the conflict would be held to account, he added.

Mr Kuleba said the State had been among the first countries to extend “the hand of support” to people from Ukraine following the Russian invasion of the country, which began on February 24th.

Responding to a question about further international support, he said the city of Mariupol was in a “dire situation”.

If Ukraine did not receive further military support, such as weapons, the result would be “more civilians will be killed, more atrocities will be committed” by Russia, he said.

Announcing the allocation of the extra €3 million to the ICC, Mr Coveney said: “I discussed with foreign minister Kuleba this morning the essential need for accountability for the appalling acts committed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I met the ICC prosecutor, Karim Khan, earlier this week, and I know his office is working closely with the office of the Ukrainian prosecutor general, Iryna Venediktova. It is essential in all situations where war crimes may have been committed to undertake investigations and ensure the collection of evidence, including in relation to crimes of sexual and gender-based violence, and to provide support for witnesses, victims and survivors.”