The Republic of Ireland’s foreign affairs minister has said that plans by Russia to hold navy military exercises off the coast of Ireland are “not welcome”.
The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters, but within Irish controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
Simon Coveney said the exercises are to take place 240 kilometres (150 miles) off the Irish south-west coast.
In compliance with legal requirements, Russia informed Ireland’s aviation authorities of the planned activities in advance.
The Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) insisted there would be no impact to the safety of civil aircraft operations.
Mr Coveney said Ireland does not have the powers to prevent it from happening.
Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Mr Coveney said: “I have made it clear to the Russian Ambassador in Ireland (Yury Filatov) that it’s not welcome.
“This is not a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.
“It’s important that I brief my colleagues on those intentions.
“Russia, under international law, can take military exercises in international waters, but the fact they are choosing to do it on the west borders of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that is in our view not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks.”
Mr Coveney is in Brussels on Monday for a scheduled meeting with other EU foreign ministers at which the ongoing tensions on the Russia/Ukraine border are being discussed.
“This is an important day today for EU foreign ministers to reinforce a message of unity from the European Union in relation to Russian/Ukraine tension,” Mr Coveney added.
“There are two very clear messages that EU foreign ministers will want to get across today.
“First of all, a clear message and ask of Russia to defuse tension in the context of their activities on the borders of Ukraine and give reassurance to the rest of the world in terms of their intentions.
“Secondly, a strong message of unity from the EU that should Russia decide to invade Ukraine militarily, that there would be very severe consequences of that action from an EU perspective in terms of sanction and restrictions that would follow very quickly, that I think would be the most comprehensive that the EU has put together in many decades.
“A message and appeal to use diplomatic means to defuse tension, but also a very strong and clear and unified message that the EU respond collectively and in a unified manner in a way that would introduce very significant measures in response to Russian military action in Ukraine.”