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full-scale war World stunned as Putin continues airstrikes and largest military invasion in Europe since WWII

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Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

A child stands at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

A child stands at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, warning countries that any attempt to interfere in its operation in Ukraine would lead to "consequences you have never seen." Picture: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, warning countries that any attempt to interfere in its operation in Ukraine would lead to "consequences you have never seen." Picture: AP

A damaged building on a Ukrainian military base in the town of Brovary, near Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

A damaged building on a Ukrainian military base in the town of Brovary, near Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

A military vehicle is seen on a street on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 24, 2022. Picture: Reuters

A military vehicle is seen on a street on the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 24, 2022. Picture: Reuters

People walk along a street with their luggage in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People walk along a street with their luggage in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Russian during an address in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. Picture: Reuters

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks in Russian during an address in Kyiv, Ukraine, February 24, 2022. Picture: Reuters

People wait to return to the city at Kyiv Airport after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People wait to return to the city at Kyiv Airport after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

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Police officers inspect the remains of a missile that fell in the street, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Kyiv. Picture: Reuters

The first explosions sounded in Ukraine's cities before dawn today as Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his long-anticipated military operation in Ukraine.

Ukraine's leadership said at least 40 people had been killed so far in what it called a "full-scale war" targeting the country from the east, north and south.

Ukraine is fighting Russian forces along practically its entire border with Russia, and there was fierce fighting in the regions of Sumy, Kharkiv, Kherson, Odessa and at a military airport near Kyiv, an adviser to the presidential office said.

The Ukrainian official said they feared that Russian forces could be air dropped into the country and then try to penetrate the government district in Kyiv.

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Ukrainian border guards had abandoned all facilities at the Russian-Ukrainian border, the Interfax news agency reported

Ukrainians have started fleeing their homes, and the UN Refugee Agency says it is working to provide aid, with predictions five million people could become displaced from the country of 44 million people.

Central European countries braced for the arrival of refugees, with Poland setting up reception points on its border and Hungary and Slovakia planning to send troops to manage the likely influx.

In a televised address as the attack began, Putin warned other countries that any attempt to interfere would “lead to consequences you have never seen in history” and saying the move was in response to threats from Ukraine and aimed at the “denazification” of the country.

Separately, a border guard stated Russian military columns have crossed the Ukrainian border into Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions.

Missiles landed in parts of the capital Kyiv, and panic gripped the eastern city of Kharkiv with many people trying to leave.

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A child stands at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

A child stands at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

A child stands at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Security camera footage shows Russian military vehicles crossing into Ukraine from Russian-annexed Crimea.

US President Joe Biden declared that the world will “hold Russia accountable”. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg condemned Russia's action as a violation of international law and a threat to European security.

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russia “wants to destroy our state” and appealed to the rest of the world to provide defence assistance to Ukraine against the Russian “aggressor”.

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Ukraine declared martial law on the country, with the foreign minister describing it as a "full-scale invasion".

The country’s border guard agency said the Russian military attacked the country from neighbouring Belarus.

The agency said that the Russian troops unleashed an artillery barrage as part of an attack backed by Belarus and Ukrainian border guards were firing back, adding that there was no immediate report of casualties.

Russia's military said it had targeted Ukrainian air bases and other military assets and had not targeted populated areas.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, warning countries that any attempt to interfere in its operation in Ukraine would lead to "consequences you have never seen." Picture: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, warning countries that any attempt to interfere in its operation in Ukraine would lead to "consequences you have never seen." Picture: AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the nation in Moscow, Russia, warning countries that any attempt to interfere in its operation in Ukraine would lead to "consequences you have never seen." Picture: AP

Explosions were heard in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv as well as Odesa and Kharkiv following Vladimir Putin's announcement that the military operation had begun.

The sound of distant blasts were picked up in a live broadcast from US outlet CNN, causing reporter Matthew Chance to put on a flak jacket.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Russian strikes have "suppressed air defence means of the Ukrainian military”, adding that the infrastructure of Ukraine's military bases has been "incapacitated".

It denied claims that a Russian warplane was shot down over Ukraine.

The Ukrainian military, meanwhile, reported it has shot down five Russian aircraft while fending off the attack on the country.

NATO will further reinforce its troops on the alliance's eastern flank, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday after Russia launched an attack on Ukraine.

"In the coming days and weeks, there will come even more (soldiers), so we will further increase and we are increasing our presence in the eastern part of the alliance," he told reporters in Brussels.

NATO also activated its defence plans to facilitate a swifter movement of troops, Stoltenberg said.

Boris Johnson said Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine is a "catastrophe for our continent", as he called on world leaders to meet and plan a response.

The Prime Minister tweeted his remarks after chairing an urgent Cobra emergency committee meeting on Thursday morning, as Moscow launched a wide-ranging attack on Ukraine, hitting cities and bases with air strikes or shelling.

Russian communications regulator Roskomnadzor on Thursday said media outlets must check the veracity of their reports about the situation in eastern Ukraine and only publish information from official Russian sources.

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Mariia Bochevan pictured at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Mariia Bochevan pictured at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Mariia Bochevan pictured at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Roskomnadzor said the distribution of false information online would lead to immediate restrictions.

"We emphasise that it is namely Russian official information sources that hold and disseminate reliable and up-to-date information," Roskomnadzor said.

  • Irish in Ukraine

The Taoiseach said visa requirements would be waived for Ukrainian people fleeing to Ireland.

He described the attack as “an outrageous and moral breach of the most fundamental principles of international law” and “immoral and totally beyond comprehension".

He warned that sanctions on Russia "will hit hard and will be far reaching".

Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister has said it appears the time for diplomacy is now over, after the latest Russian action in Ukraine.

"This is an illegal act of aggression by Russia," Simon Coveney said..

"They are lying to themselves and lying to the world about their justification for it."

The Russian Ambassador to Ireland has said that Russia has “no plans” to occupy Ukraine.

Yuriy Filatov said in a statement that the “final objective” of the Russia military operation is to “stop the bloodshed” which is “inflicted by the Ukrainian military” in Donbass.

“The operation has final objective to restore peace in Donbass, create normal life conditions for its population,” said the Ambassador.

Mr Coveney also revealed there were there are two Irish couples in Ukraine who are having babies by surrogate mothers and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is currently assisting them.

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A protestor holds a banner at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

A protestor holds a banner at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

A protestor holds a banner at the protest outside the Russian Embassy against the invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Gerry Mooney

Several such couples have managed to get their newborns home in recent days amid travel warnings.

Mr Coveney said it is not only an attack on Ukraine, but on the whole of Europe.

"It is also, in many ways, an attack on the kind of Europe we have built together, collectively, since World War Two."

He said while Ireland is “militarily nonaligned”, it is “certainly not neutral on an issue” such as the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

Ireland has always maintained a stance of neutrality, and did not take sides during the Second World War when Britain was being bombed by the Nazis.

Minister Coveney said Ireland is in “complete solidarity” with the Ukrainian people.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, he said EU member states and their partners across the world will respond by introducing “tougher sanctions to send a very clear signal that we cannot and will not accept this”.

He promised "very direct and very hard-hitting" sanctions against Russia.

"We are not going to go to war with Russia, militarily," Simon Coveney told RTÉ Radio.

"But certainly I think the response in terms of sanctions will be very direct and very hard-hitting, and that means that the EU is also going to suffer as a result of those sanctions because undoubtedly there'll be counter-sanctions from Russia."

He added: “This is a moment when the European Union needs to act together. I think you will see extraordinary unity today from the European Union and when some people address the question of Irish neutrality, yes Ireland is a neutral country – we are militarily nonaligned – but we are certainly not neutral on and issue like this.

“There is blatant aggression happening on the continent of Europe and we will respond with other democratic partners with a resolve that I think we haven’t seen for many, many years in the European Union.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs in continuing to provide consular assistance to an estimated 60 Irish citizens still in Ukraine.

Mr Coveney said he has spoken to the Irish Ambassador in Kyiv, Therese Healy, and Ambassador Healy and other EU diplomats on the ground have been moved to a “safe place”.

Minister Coveney said the air space is currently not safe and anyone trying to leave the Ukraine will have to use road transport.

He admitted that diplomatic efforts have failed at this point but said EU and world leaders have made “continuous efforts” to avoid the outbreak of war.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) urged Irish citizens who are in the Ukraine to “seek shelter” in the wake of the Russian invasion overnight.

It is advising Irish citizens on the ground not to “move around”, citing advice from Ukrainian local authorities.

The DFA also has reiterated its advice for Irish citizen to avoid travelling to the Ukraine.

In a statement released this morning, the DFA said: “The Department of Foreign Affairs recommends that all Irish citizens currently in Ukraine seek shelter in a secure place. We advise that citizens do not move around the country in the coming hours and to follow the advice of local authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs advises against all travel to Ukraine.

“The Department will issue regular updates via press release and on the @dfatirl Twitter account as the situation develops.”

Earlier Mr Coveney tweeted: "God help" the Ukrainian people.

He has described the Russian invasion as a "shocking murderous act of aggression against a sovereign peaceful state".

Minister Coveney said the EU and world must react "strongly".

A protest against the invasion takes place at the Dáil in Dublin at noon today.

  • Cybersecurity

A cybersecurity expert has warned that cyberattacks being carried out by Russia in the Ukraine pose a serious risk to security in Ireland and across the world.

Smart Tech CEO Ronan Murphy said Russian hackers have been targeting Ukrainian servers for a number of weeks with a variety of “menacing” attacks.

He said government websites have been taken down and messages have been posted on them saying “be afraid and prepare for the worst.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne programme, Mr Murphy said the attacks have also targeted Ukrainian banks.

“Obviously if you’ve got a population that is trying to flee, the ability to withdraw funds and to access information, all of those critical systems are being undermined and that has been pretty unrelenting by Russia on the Ukraine.”

Mr Murphy said Russian hackers have also been implementing “very destructive, malicious” software which is similar to the type used in the HSE ransomware attack last year, but is far more destructive.

“The damage that it caused is irreparable and it completely eliminates and destroys all of the data.

“So, it’s very aggressive, it’s a very menacing attack and it has been witnessed – they did this in Georgia in 2008 and Crimea in 2014 and obviously they did a very significant attack in the Ukraine in 2017.”

Mr Murphy said the Ukraine/Russia conflict presents a “very acute cyber risk” to the rest of the world.

“Because once you unleash these very destructive, malicious payloads or viruses into the Ukraine, they tend to spread and affect other countries around the world and that has happened previously.

“So, it’s a very worrying time in the cybersecurity industry.”

He said that the amount of cybersecurity activity globally has increased to a “very significant level” and advised everyone to “treat the internet as hostile in everything you do over the coming days and weeks”.

“You need to be careful what you open, what you click on, what links you follow, what information you read. It’s so multi-faceted in terms of the risks that people face and governments face,” he added.

  • Ukraine shuts down

Governments and airlines have begun diverting flights away from Ukrainian airspace.

Ryanair has suspended its Ukraine flights for at least the next fortnight.

The airline said: "Due to the closure of Ukrainian airspace overnight and the apparent invasion by Russian forces, all Ryanair flights to/from Ukraine have been suspended for at least the next 14 days.

"All affected passengers will receive email notices later this morning and all flights to/from Ukraine have been removed from sale for at least the next four weeks until further information becomes available from EU safety agencies.

"Ryanair remains committed to our services to/from Ukraine and we look forward to restoring flight services there as soon as it is safe to do so.

"We sincerely regret and apologise for these unprecedented disruptions and any inconvenience that they will inevitably cause to our Ukrainian customers."

Lithuania's president declared a state of emergency on Thursday, telling the NATO country's army to deploy along its borders in response to "possible disturbances and provocations due to large military forces massed in Russia and Belarus".

  • International outcry

NATO chief, Mr Stoltenberg, has convened a meeting of NATO ambassadors to assess the invasion of Ukraine, which borders several NATO members.

The meeting will “address the situation in Ukraine and the consequences of Russia’s unprovoked attack”.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the Russian president had "chosen a path of bloodshed and destruction" and the UK and its allies would respond "decisively".

Vladimir Putin began constructing an alternate reality in which Ukraine is not a proper country, just a part of his Russia

‘In Europe, innocent women, men and children are dying or fear for their lives’: Ursula von der Leyen’s speech in full

The president of Romania has condemned Russia’s “reprehensible” attack on Ukraine and said that Russian President Vladimir Putin “threatens the peace of the entire planet.”

Romania borders Ukraine and is a member of NATO and the European Union. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said that Russia “chose the reprehensible and completely illegal path of massive armed violence against an independent and sovereign state.”

Klaus Iohannis said that Romania, a country of about 19.5 million people, is ready to deal with economic and humanitarian consequences that the conflict could generate.

Mr Putin went on TV before 6am in Moscow to declare: “I have decided to conduct a special military operation. We respect all the newly formed countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“You and I have been left with no opportunity to protect our people other than the one we use today.”

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People walk along a street with their luggage in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People walk along a street with their luggage in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People walk along a street with their luggage in Kyiv, Ukraine after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Beijing urged restraint by "all parties" and repeated criticism that the US was to blame for "hyping" the prospect of war in Eastern Europe.

China didn't wish to see what happened and urged all parties to give peace a chance, foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a regular briefing. Still, she noted that Russia's defense ministry said it will not attack any cities while adding that Russia is independent and can set strategy based on its own interests.

Hua also reiterated that China and Russia were strategic partners, and trade would continue as normal.

Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine said today that they had captured the towns of Shchastia and Stanytsia Luhanska in Ukraine's region of Luhansk, the RIA news agency reported.

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Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Smoke rises over the area near the town of Chasiv Yar in the Donetsk region, Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Meanwhile, Ukraine's ambassador at the United Nations has told the Security Council that Putin has "declared war on Ukraine".

He also pressed his Russian counterpart to state that Russia will not shell and bomb Ukrainian cities.

Ukrainian ambassador Sergiy Kyslytsya said that if Russian ambassador Vassily Nebenzia was not in a position to give a positive answer, he should relinquish the presidency of the Security Council, which Russia holds this month.

The Ukrainian then asked for another emergency meeting of the Security Council, calling on the UN body "to stop the war because it's too late to talk about de-escalation".

Mr Kyslytsya then asked if he should play the video of Mr Putin announcing military operations being launched in Ukraine.

Mr Nebenzia replied: "This isn't called a war. This is called a special military operation in Donbas."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Russia's attack on Ukraine was "the saddest moment" of his five-year tenure.

Mr Guterres urged the Russian president to withdraw his troops and added: "In the name of humanity do not allow to start in Europe what could be the worst war since the beginning of the century, with consequences not only devastating for Ukraine, not only tragic for the Russian Federation, but with an impact we cannot even foresee in relation to the consequences for the global economy."

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People wait to return to the city at Kyiv Airport after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People wait to return to the city at Kyiv Airport after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

People wait to return to the city at Kyiv Airport after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation on Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

"What is clear for me is that this war doesn't make any sense," Mr Guterres added, stressing that it violates the UN Charter and would cause a level of suffering that Europe has not known since at least the 1990s Balkans crisis.

Both British prime minister Boris Johnson and French president Emmanuel Macron are addressing their nations today.

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan strongly condemns the one-sided actions of Russia, following reports that Russian forces had fired missiles at several Ukrainian cities.

Kishida said he has instructed the relevant Japanese authorities to do everything possible to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals in Ukraine.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his country is considering sanctions against 300 members of the Russian parliament over the attack on Ukraine.

Mr Morrison also condemned Russia for the "brutal" and "unprovoked" attack, and said it should withdraw its troops.

A Russian opposition activist called for anti-war protests in Russian cities.

"We will be cleaning up this mess for years to come. Not even us. But our children and grandchildren," Marina Litvinovich, the Moscow-based activist, wrote on Facebook.

"All we see is the agony of a dying man. Alas, Russia is in agony."

  • Markets and economy

Motorists are being warned to expect a surge in fuel prices "any time soon" following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The price of Brent crude oil hit its highest level in eight years after increasing by 5.6pc to 102.30 US dollars per barrel shortly after 7am on Thursday.

Average fuel prices at forecourts in Ireland are already at record highs, along with the cost of home heating, and the situation is expected to worsen as retailers pass on further rises in wholesale costs.

AA president Edmund King said: "Russia's attack on Ukraine and resulting geopolitical uncertainty has pushed Brent crude above 100 US dollars per barrel for first time since 2014.

"This will result in hikes in prices at the pumps.

"New record fuel prices are likely any time soon."

Mr King advised drivers wanting to conserve fuel to consider cutting out short journeys, car-sharing, reducing speeds and driving more smoothly.”

Asian stock markets plunged and oil prices surged after Mr Putin announced Russian military action in Ukraine.

Market benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul fell 2pc and Hong Kong and Sydney lost more than 3pc on Thursday. Oil prices jumped nearly 3 dollars per barrel on unease about possible disruption of Russian supplies.

Earlier, Wall Street's benchmark S and P 500 index fell 1.8% to an eight-month low after the Kremlin said rebels in eastern Ukraine asked for military assistance.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) is warning air operators of a high risk to civilian aircraft over Ukraine, reminding air operators that "this is now an active conflict zone".

In the bulletin issued early on Thursday, EASA said that: "Airspace and critical infrastructure, including airports, are exposed to military activities which result in safety risks for civil aircraft. In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft."

It added: "The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a HIGH risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels."

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Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

Cars drive towards the exit of Kyiv after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised a military operation in eastern Ukraine. Picture: Reuters

It recommended that, "additionally, as a precautionary measure, operators should exercise extreme caution and avoid using the airspace" within 100 nautical miles of the Belarusian- and Russia-Ukraine border.

The websites of Ukraine's defence, foreign and interior ministries were unreachable or slow to load on Thursday morning after a wave of distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

In addition to DDoS attacks on Wednesday, cybersecurity researchers said unidentified attackers had infected hundreds of computers with destructive malware, some in neighbouring Latvia and Lithuania.

Asked if the denial-of-service attacks were continuing on Thursday morning, senior Ukrainian cyber defence official Victor Zhora did not answer. "Are you serious?" he texted. "There are ballistic missiles here."

"This is terrible. We need the world to stop it. Immediately," Mr Zhora said of the offensive that Russian President Vladimir Putin announced before dawn.

War has begun in Ukraine – this is what the west must do next

‘If your home is invaded, then you’re going to protect it’ – Irish man in Ukraine says he is ready to fight

‘My family and people are in shock. Everybody is stressed’ – Ukrainian man in Ireland tells how Irish people can help

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