Saturday, November 19, 2022

Rebecca Black, PA

There are no plans to expel the Russian ambassador from Ireland, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

His comments come after it was confirmed that 52 key representatives from the State have been placed on a sanction list for expressing what the Kremlin claimed was “Russophobic sentiment”.

Six senior politicians were named including Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar and Mr Coveney.

Mr Coveney said it is essentially a list of most Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians who are banned from travelling to Russia.

He said there no suggestion of a security risk to them, adding that none of the 52, as far as he is aware, had any intention to travel to Russia anytime soon.

Fine Gael Ard Fheis
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (Damien Storan/PA)

Speaking at the Fine Gael Ard Fheis in Athlone on Saturday morning, Mr Coveney said it is his view that Ireland should take a very strong position on the war in Ukraine and not be neutral.

“We should call out Russia for the illegality of what they’re doing, the brutality of what they’re doing and we have been doing that on all platforms that we can, whether it’s on the security council, whether it’s in the EU but also on a bilateral basis with Russia,” he said.

“If you’re going to have those blunt conversations in terms of sending messages when you disagree with a country, you have to have diplomatic channels open.

“In my view wars end because people talk to each other and for me keeping diplomatic channels open with a country even when you fundamentally disagree with what they’re doing is important.

“That’s how international diplomacy works.

“We have an ongoing review as to the appropriate presence of Russia in terms of their embassy in Dublin.

“We have already made a decision to ask four people to leave, but that’s an ongoing review where I take advice from the intelligence that we have.

“But we’re not going to have a knee-jerk reaction to what happened this week.

“What happened this week is an attempt by Russian, in my view, to unsettle the Irish political system, to divide people and to get Ireland talking about who’s on lists and who’s not.

“As opposed to Ireland talking about what we should be focusing on which is the war proper, and the potential war crimes that are being committed on a daily basis in Ukraine.”

He added: “In some ways the easy thing to do is just to say, we’re asking the Russian embassy to close, the ambassador to leave.

“I don’t believe that would achieve a lot in terms of where our real focus needs to be, which is to support Ukraine, support Ukrainian people and to work with the rest of the world to bring this madness to an end.”

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