Russian naval exercises near Irish coast ‘not welcome,’ official says

Ireland’s foreign affairs minister on Sunday said planned Russian naval exercises close to his country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) are “not welcome.”

“In light of the current political and security environment in Europe, the Department of Foreign Affairs has raised a number of concerns with the Russian authorities in respect of these exercises,” Minister Simon Coveney said in a statement.

Russian naval exercises are expected to begin in early February near Ireland’s EEZ, roughly 150 miles off of the country’s southwest coast, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs. While the area in question is part of Ireland’s EEZ, it is not part of its territorial waters.

Despite the concerns, Coveney acknowledged that states are entitled to carry out naval exercises in other states’ EEZs under international law and said Ireland had been notified of the exercises through standard procedures.

The Irish official is set to meet with fellow European Union foreign ministers in Brussels on Tuesday. Coveney said he plans on discussing the Russian naval exercises with his colleagues, saying he expects the conversation to be “dominated by the security situation in Europe, with a particular focus on Russia and Ukraine.”

“I will also reiterate our full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and will call again on Russia to de-escalate tensions and engage constructively in dialogue,” said Coveney.

Under the United Nations’ Law of the Sea Convention, the high seas are open to all states. The treaty states that “these freedoms shall be exercised by all States with due regard for the interests of other States in their exercise of the freedom of the high seas.”

“I’ve made it clear to the Russian ambassador in Ireland that it’s not welcome,” Coveney told reporters on Monday, according to CNN. “This isn’t the time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.” 

He added, “The fact that they’re choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, off the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that, in our view is simply not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks.”

The comments from Coveney come as tensions with Russia have escalated sharply due to the buildup of Russia’s military along the Ukrainian border. British officials recently warned that they had information suggesting that Russia was planning on invading Ukraine and installing a pro-Russian head of state.

While Russia has denied any plans to invade, Western countries like the U.S. and the U.K. have started to reduce some staffing at their embassies in Kyiv. 

Over the weekend, Ireland also updated its travel advisory for Irish citizens in Ukraine, recommending that they avoid all nonessential travel through the country. All Irish citizens in the Ukraine have also been advised to register with the Irish Embassy in Kyiv.

Tags Ireland Russia Ukraine

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