Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov at a press briefing this evening. Niall O'Connor/The Journal

No reason to change plans for Russian missile tests 240km off Irish coast, ambassador says

The Russian ambassador to Ireland said “there are no problems” with the planned military exercises.

THE RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR to Ireland has downplayed concerns about planned Russian missile tests in international waters off the Irish coast.

Yury Filatov told reporters at a press briefing this evening that this is a “non-story” and that there are “no grounds for concern” for Ireland in relation to the exercises. 

The Journal reported on Saturday that the Irish government had received a warning of a major exercise by the Russian navy and air force in the Atlantic off the south west coast planned for the first week of February.

The Russian ambassador said he doesn’t see “any reason” to change the planned exercises. 

“It takes much time to put together, it’s an effort and I don’t see any reason to change it,” he said.

“It’s a small exercise actually maybe three or four ships, not more. There is nothing really to be disturbed, concerned or anguished about and I have extensively explained that to our Irish colleagues.”

The ambassador told journalists this evening that “there are no problems” or reasons for concern over the planned tests.

He read from a prepared text and took a number of questions from reporters, reiterating that it was a routine event and dismissing news reports as ‘hoopla’. 

“These exercises are part of the yearly plan for naval activity for 2022, which is an upstanding procedure with the Russian navy as well as with other navies,” Filatov said. 

“The exercises have been duly notified to the Irish authorities whose rules pertaining to the safety of air and maritime traffic will be strictly followed.”

He said these exercises are held on a regular basis in this area off the coast “conducted not only by Russia but by other countries as well”.

“No problem is expected,” he said. “All that has been communicated to our colleagues at the Department of Foreign Affairs.” 

Security sources have told The Journal that US Naval Aircraft have been patrolling off the south coast of Ireland in the last 24 hours.

The area concerned is a relatively small area of water that is approximately 240 kilometres off the Irish coast. The area is in international waters but is within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone and is patrolled by Irish Naval ships and Air Corps Casa aircraft. 

Coveney said this morning that he will brief his EU counterparts on these planned Russian military exercises.

“That is in international waters but it is also part of the Exclusive Economic Zone of Ireland. And so we don’t have the power to prevent this happening,” he said. 

But certainly, I’ve made it clear to the Russian ambassador in Ireland, that it’s not welcome. This isn’t a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine at the moment. And so I think it’s important that I would brief my colleagues on those intentions.

The Russian ambassador said that Ireland wasn’t the choice for these exercises, but this is the space for naval training for other areas, including Russia. 

“There is no Irish connection here whatsoever,” he said. 

He also said he does not believe there will be any harm to infrastructure, marine life, air traffic or maritime traffic as a result of the exercises. 

He added that there is “nothing surprising, nothing sensational” about the military exercises.

Yury Filatov also said Russia has “no plans” to attack Ukraine or any other country.

He accused the US and Nato countries’ focus “on this invasion scenario” as being an attempt to frame the “really important issue” of European security in a false way.

Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer.  

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