The organisers of what is described as a 'Victory Day' event in Ireland have denied it is pro-Russia and that it has anything to do with the war in Ukraine.
The Council of the Russian Compatriots in Ireland (CORC) are planning for a car convoy to drive between Enfield, Co Meath and Athlone, Co Westmeath on Sunday after previous plans to start the event in Dublin's Phoenix Park were dropped.
Victory Day - remembering the defeat of Nazi Germany - is a major occasion in Russia.
It features a large military parade in Moscow and is expected to take on greater significance this year due to Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian community in Ireland has raised concern over plans for a Victory Day event in Ireland as they view it as pro-Russian propaganda.
Speaking to reporters in Dublin, Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said he would prefer the organisers to call off the event as he thought it would "antagonise people".
Mr Ryan added: “People have a real sense of outrage as to what’s happening in the Ukraine. There is an aggressor. It is the Russian government and the Russian army. And I think celebrating or in any way supporting that...for Irish people would add to the insult in a way.”
An organisation called Ukrainians in Ireland has said it was “deeply saddened” at plans by the CORC to hold the rally, arguing that it would offend Irish people and Ukrainians.
It asked Irish authorities to stop the event, which it described as “nothing more than another malicious attempt of Russian propaganda to poison people’s minds and spread doubts”.
A spokesman for CORC rejected this, saying people planning to take part in the event were “100 per cent against the war”.
The spokesman - who declined to provide his name, citing safety concerns - said he was from one of the Baltic States and had “no Russian blood”.
He said the event was “nothing to do with being pro-Russian” and that marking Victory Day is a tradition going back to the end of the second World War in 1945 to remember people who died in that conflict.
He said his organisation represented Russian-speaking people in Ireland and that people from 15 nationalities were expected to take part in the event, which he characterised as a sombre memorial. He rejected the use of the term rally.
The spokesman said attendees have been told not to display the ‘Z’ symbol, which is associated with Russian military vehicles participating in the invasion of Ukraine, and that anyone who does so will be removed from the convoy.
“Yes there’s going to be Russian flags at it,” he said, adding: “People could be proud of their country but they could be against the regime.”
The spokesman said he was “against the war completely”.
“I don’t know any person that would support what’s happening at the moment,” he said.
He said he would be “against any war in any part of the world. Not only Ukraine.”
The spokesman also said: "Politics is supposed to be dealing with it and none of the sides should be allowing this to happen at the very, very start including Putin, the European Union, America and everybody else.
“The big guys should be sorting things differently, not the normal people suffering.”
Asked if it was wise to hold the event at this time, given the war in Ukraine. he said he has been attending the occasion in Ireland for 15 years. “What’s the difference with now? It has nothing to do with the war.”
The Office of Public Works, which has responsibility for the Phoenix Park, said it received an application for an event at the Papal Cross on Sunday, May 8th.
An OPW spokeswoman said: “The organisers were requested to provide a signed indemnity form, to submit an event safety management plan and to provide the relevant insurance cover.
"The organisers were also required to meet with the OPW and An Garda Síochána. "
“As all these requirements have not been met, the OPW is not in a position to grant permission for this event.”
The CORC spokesman said the original plan was to hold the event at the Phoenix Park, but he did not know if the application was made.
He said that at one point after the war began, the CORC was planning to cancel the event outright because of what was happening in Ukraine.
However, he said people wanted it to go ahead to honour their grandparent’s second World War service and they decided to have the event outside Dublin.