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Taoiseach meeting Ukrainian Prime Minister at Shannon Airport this afternoon. @MichealMartinTD

Russia intentionally destroying grain export to create food crisis, Ukrainian PM tells Taoiseach

Taoiseach says Government is working to turn around pledges more quickly.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Apr 2022

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said Russia’s strategy is not just about attacking and killing civilians, but also about causing huge instability globally around energy and food.

Martin made his comments after meeting with the Ukrainian Prime Minister at Shannon Airport for over an hour this afternoon.

Denys Shmyhal is on his way to Washington Ukraine for a series of meetings, and had a stopover in Shannon Airport.

Speaking to reporters, the Taoiseach said they spoke about the “appalling” massacres in Ukraine and the continuing attacks on civilians in towns across the country.

Grain silos destroyed

Speaking about food instability, he said “the largest grain silos in Ukraine have all been leveled. So there’s a very clear strategic objective there to create a food crisis on top of the energy crisis that has been created, as well as raging an immoral and unjust war on Ukraine itself”.

The Taoiseach said the prime minister had some very clear objectives in their discussions, stating that there is a particular need for global financial support to underpin the Ukrainian budget “and to enable the Ukrainian government to continue to feed its people, and to continue to keep the economy going within the Ukraine, notwithstanding the enormous disruption caused by the war”.

Shmyhal reiterated the need for support for Ukraine’s application to join the European Union.

“I assured them of Ireland’s strong proactive support in that regard,” he said. 

“Furthermore we discussed sanctions and the potential sixth round of sanctions, focusing on oil and other issues, to create further pressure on the Russian Federation, and Putin’s regime to make sure that the sanctions can hit hard in terms of acting as a deterrent against the continuation of this war,” said Martin.

In particular, the Taoiseach said there are some specialist areas where supplies are needed due to cluster bombs or unexploded munitions.

“They need equipment and they need expertise to assist them in terms of cleaning up areas,” he added.

The Taoiseach told reporters today that he sensed from the Prime Minister “his strong determination to protect” his country and the people of Ukraine, while resisting “this latest aggression and push in the Eastern region”.

Turning pledges around quicker

Speaking about the accommodation demands for arriving Ukrainian refugees in Ireland, the Taoiseach said the situation is “very challenging”. 

Up to 25,000 refugees have now arrived into the country, he said. 

“That’s the largest amount of displaced people ever to come into Ireland in such a quick and rapid timeframe,” he said.

“We want to work on a number of fronts, particularly to turn around the pledges more quickly than they had been to date, in terms of people with pledged facilities. Also, there are a number of other facilities coming on track. And in addition to that, there’s the reconfiguration of buildings that have been identified by local authorities that could also help in terms of of housing,” said Martin.

He said he could not be definitive on the amount of refugees that might be placed in emergency accommodation.

The Taoiseach added that the Ukrainian prime minister “was already talking in terms of quite a number of people returning to those parts of Ukraine now that are free from Russian presence and military presence”.

“A lot will depend on the course of the war,” he said.

“We have to do everything we possibly can on all fronts to be of assistance and help the people fleeing Ukraine,” said the Taoiseach, adding that in his discussions with the prime minister they discussed the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

‘Create terror’

The Ukrainian prime minister made it “very clear that there was a deliberate strategy on behalf of Putin, to literally bomb people out of Ukraine, to create so much terror, that people will flee,” the Taoiseach told reporters. 

Putin wants to challenge Europe in terms of the number of displaced people leaving Ukraine, said Martin. 

“And I think we’ve got to be equally robust in the sense of the entire European continent in response, saying: ‘look, we can absorb this and we have to deal with this’. But it’s shocking and scandalous sort of approach by the Russian Federation to deliberately create that terror,” Martin added.

The Taoiseach said the bombing of residential zones is to cause people to flee their homes and to flee their towns.

Global food crisis 

He said the prime minister “worryingly” pointed out that there’s been a “concentrated effort in destroying the capacity to harvest the grain and to export grain, thereby creating a crisis within food as well, globally, in the not too distant future”. 

“What’s happening in Ukraine is a crime against humanity,” he added, and there “can be no equivocation about that or ambivalence about that”. 

The Taoiseach was also asked about Ireland’s neutrality stance while speaking to the media at Shannon Airport today,

In the fullness of time, the Taoiseach said he would like to establish a Citizen’s Assembly “to facilitate a broader and more informed reflection on all of that, and not to do it in the middle of a war”. 

The meeting comes just a week after Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney visited Kyiv and the town of Bucha in Ukraine.

Coveney met Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov in the country’s capital.

It was confirmed today that Norway has given Ukraine around 100 French-made Mistral anti-air missiles.

The Mistral launchers and missiles, which have already been delivered, had until now been mounted on Norwegian navy vessels, the defence ministry said in a statement.

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