Flags of Ireland and Russia (Picture: Alamy).
Picture: Alamy.

Russian military exercises off coast of Ireland 'not welcome'

Flags of Ireland and Russia (Picture: Alamy).
Picture: Alamy.

Ireland’s Foreign Affairs minister says Russian plans to hold naval military exercises off the coast of Ireland are "not welcome".

The artillery drills at the start of February will take place in international waters, but within Irish controlled airspace and the country’s exclusive economic zone.

Simon Coveney, expected to brief the Cabinet on Tuesday, said Ireland does not have the powers to prevent the training 240 kilometres off the Irish south-west coast.

It comes as Russia’s military build-up on the border with Ukraine has sparked new international fear of an invasion.

Neither Ukraine nor Ireland are fully-fledged members of the NATO defence alliance.

In compliance with legal requirements, Russia informed the Irish Aviation Authority of the planned activities in advance, the latter insisting there would be no impact to the safety of civil aircraft operations.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU foreign ministers, Mr Coveney said: "I have made it clear to the Russian Ambassador in Ireland (Yury Filatov) that it’s not welcome.

"This is not a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what is happening with and in Ukraine at the moment.

"It’s important that I brief my colleagues on those intentions.

Watch: UK at forefront of Ukraine support as fears of war grow.

"Russia, under international law, can take military exercises in international waters, but the fact they are choosing to do it on the west borders of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that is in our view not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks."

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said: "While the Russian military can, within the law, carry out these exercises off our waters and in our economic zone, they’re certainly unwelcome.

"That has been communicated to the authorities."

The Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yury Filatov, said at a press conference in the Russian Embassy on Monday the planned drills are a "non-story".

"It has been hugely overblown. These exercises are part of the yearly plan of naval activity for 2022," he added.

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