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Support effort Taoiseach suggests Irish troops could assist rescue of refugees in Ukraine

Meanwhile Simon Coveney has said “undoubtedly civilians have been targeted in this war"

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Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said there is no doubt that the Russian forces have targeted civilians in their war on Ukraine.

Minister Coveney was speaking in response the violence and civilian casualties in Ukraine and in particular the bombing of maternity hospital in Mariupol this week.

“Undoubtedly civilians have been targeted in this war,” he told RTÉ’s Liveline programme.

“Civilian infrastructure has been targeted. Schools, I think more than 200 schools have been destroyed so far and yesterday, you know really, I think people felt physically sick looking at the images of a maternity hospital, in a Children's Hospital, in parts reduced to rubble and hearing stories of young children and babies under the rubble.”

Mr Coveney said reports from Russian officials which claim the maternity hospital was evacuated are “not credible” and people in Russia who attempt to tell the truth are being threatened with 15-year prison sentences.

Despite the devastation being caused by Russian forces, Minister Coveney said the focus must remain in deescalating the war rather then sending in western troops to assist Ukraine’s army.

He said as well as the sanctions which have been imposed on Russia, Russian officials will be held to account in “the International Criminal Court, in the Human Rights Council, in the UN Security Council, in the UN General Assembly, in the OSCE, in the Council of Europe”.

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Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney. Photo: Gareth Chaney

 

He said European leaders are “willing to go further again” with sanctions but NATO believes sending in troops will only inflame the conflict further.

“What we don't want here is an escalation of this war where more people will be killed. Where we will turn a totally unacceptable illegal war, that is completely inconsistent with the UN charter and that Russia has to bear full responsibility, for into an even bigger global conflict.

“The West isn't sitting back. Yesterday in Washington there was a €13.6 billion euro package agreed and signed off to support Ukraine. The EU is spending half a billion euro supporting the Ukraine military, has signed off on another €1.2 billion in terms of economic support for Ukraine.

“Ireland is using every tool at its disposal to raise issues of illegality here and to hold Russia to account and we will continue to do that and we will of course play our part in terms of the humanitarian challenges as well.”

Minister Coveney said experts are predicting that the Russian economy will “default” due to the severe sanctions which have been imposed.

He added that the Russian invasion was a “significant” economic and military miscalculation.

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“I think there was an expectation in the Russian leadership that this war would conclude within three or four days. That hasn't happened and isn't going to happen anytime soon. I also think they completely underestimated the European Union.

"They probably saw the EU as weak and divided and indecisive and they also saw a lot of division in Washington as well and so they decided that this was a time to strike; to try to force Russian influence on a sovereign country in Ukraine.

“I think all of those calculations were wrong and they realize it now and the challenge for the international community is of course to maintain the deterrent and to continue to increase the pressure through sanctions but also to find a way to facilitate a change of course from Russia because ultimately that is how this needs to end."

Meanwhile, the Taoiseach has suggested that Irish troops could go to countries bordering Ukraine to assist in any international rescue and support effort for refugees.

Speaking at the EU informal summit in Versailles, Micheal Martin said any such intervention for humanitarian purposes would have to comply with the "triple lock" on United Nations resolution, Government and Dáil approval.

"That's always possible… We have a triple lock, which requires Government approval, Dáil approval and a UN resolution, which then enables Irish troops to serve in peacekeeping or peace-enforcement,” he said.

"And as you know, we have served on European Union peace enforcement missions in the past.

“We stand ready to help neighbouring countries in terms of humanitarian crisis in terms of logistics, whether it is on the border between Ukraine and Poland, in Moldova, Romania, countries that are under a lot of pressure at the moment because of the situation."

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