Even as he increasingly threatens an invasion of Ukraine, Russian leader Vladimir Putin is stretching his military’s presence into all sorts of new places. Most recently his forces have been seen operating and exercising in the Arctic, near Oman in the Indian Ocean, and around Japan and Hawaii. (RELATED: Russia Announces War Games With China and Iran That Will ‘Encircle’ Europe)
Now Russia is planning to hold live-fire naval drills in early February 150 miles off Ireland’s Cork coast. While that area is in international waters, it is well within Ireland’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Russian ambassador to Ireland, Yuri Filatov, said the drill would be “a small exercise — maybe three or four ships, not more.”
Russian Filatov added he was unaware if missiles will be fired or whether submarines would be involved in the exercises. Russia has informed Ireland’s aviation authorities of the planned drills. (RELATED: PDB – Russian ‘Lightning Raid’ Option and Can US Subs Deter Moscow?)
Still the Irish government is “not happy.” And neither are Irish fishermen who claim that the drills threaten a crucial area for marine life and an important fishing region.
This move comes as NATO announced it’s sending jet fighters and warships to eastern Europe, and the U.S. is ordering the families of embassy personnel in Ukraine to evacuate the country and it mobilized up to 8,500 troops for possible deployment to Europe. (RELATED: While Biden Dithers, Spain Sends Warships to Deter Russian Invasion)
In response, as the situation in Ukraine remains increasingly volatile, Ireland’s foreign minister warned Monday that Russia’s plans to hold war games off Ireland’s coast are “not welcome.”
Fox News reported:
“This isn’t a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine,” Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said.
“The fact that they are choosing to do it on the western borders, if you like, of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that in our view is simply not welcome and not wanted right now, particularly in the coming weeks,” he continued.
Coveney also said “we don’t have a power to prevent this happening but certainly I’ve made it clear to the Russian ambassador in Ireland that it’s not welcome.”
Under international law, including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), states are entitled to carry out naval exercises in another nation’s EEZs. However, others asked if something could be done to prevent the Russians from conductive their live fire drills so near to the Irish coast.
The Irish Times noted that Labour TD Ivana Bacik said the development is “very alarming,” adding that Russia has used bullying tactics:
“Look at Ukraine, look at Belarus, look at Georgia, look at Russian intervention in Syria, appalling intervention, and I’ve been hugely critical of Russia over many years.”
She said she would like to know if there is anything that can be done to stop it going ahead.
While the government appears impotent to prevent the drills, Irish fishing boats are planning to peacefully disrupt the Russian naval exercises.
Politico Europe reports Patrick Murphy, chief executive of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organization, as saying Tuesday: “Our boats will be going out to that area on the first of February to go fishing.”
When one boat needs to return to port, another will head out so there is a continuous presence on the water, he continued. “If that is in proximity to where the [military] exercise is going, we are expecting that the Russian naval services abide by the anti-collision regulations.” The Irish fishing industry has taken “as much as it can possibly take.”
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