Varadkar compares Putin to Hitler after ‘shocking’ and ‘immoral’ Ukraine invasion

Tánaiste says it would be ‘appropriate’ to reduce number of Russian officials in Dublin embassy

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said it would be "appropriate" to reduce Russia's diplomatic presence in Ireland but he stopped short of saying the country's ambassador should be expelled.

He also compared Russian president Vladimir Putin to Adolf Hitler due to his "shocking" and "immoral" actions in Ukraine.

There have been widespread calls from Government and Opposition benches for Russian ambassador Yury Filatov to be told leave Ireland.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said that Ireland’s solidarity with Ukraine “must mean significantly strengthened sanctions against the Putin regime”. She called for Mr Filatov to be expelled.


Labour Party foreign affairs spokesman Brendan Howlin said Ireland should push for a “coordinated EU and like-minded countries response” to expelling Russian ambassadors. This was deemed a more likely course of action in Government circles in coming days than a unilateral move to expel Mr Filatov.

EU foreign ministers on Friday agreed to freeze the assets of Mr Putin and his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said he had made the case for also excluding Russia from the Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunications) international financial network in a further package of sanctions expected to be agreed in the coming days.

Mr Coveney said a decision was made by the EU as a bloc not to expel Russian ambassadors but “this and other possible diplomatic measures remain on the table.” He said he had a responsibility to consider the potential impact of decisions on Ireland’s ability to assist Irish citizens in Russia and Ukraine and “we are are maintaining a clear line of communication for now”.

Mr Coveney added: “On my instruction, the secretary general of my department today summoned the Russian ambassador to make clear the Government’s strong condemnation of the invasion and Russia’s gross violation of international law.”

Earlier, Mr Varadkar told RTÉ Radio that Russia had 20 officials in its embassy here compared to three or four Irish diplomats in Moscow and it was difficult to see why they need that level of personnel in Dublin.

He said it would be “appropriate” for the number of Russians here to be reduced and said it “might be more effective” than the symbolism of removing the ambassador.

“We knew that Putin was a bad man. We’ve known that for a long time now. But we didn’t think that he would be the Hitler of the 21st century and I think he is putting himself into that space,” Mr Varadkar added.

Irish citizens

Mr Coveney confirmed Ireland’s diplomatic team has left Ukraine and they will operate the Kyiv Embassy remotely from Dublin.

The Department of Foreign Affairs remains in contact with 94 Irish citizens in Ukraine who have registered with them. “The safety and security of Irish citizens and their dependents in Ukraine is our priority,” a statement said.

The Government confirmed that the requirement for Ukrainian citizens to have a visa to travel to Ireland has been dropped with “immediate effect”.

Officials have been preparing for the possibility of Ukrainian refugees arriving in Ireland.

It is understood that one of the options under consideration involves placing asylum seekers in temporary accommodation such as hotels if there are any capacity issues.

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times