Russia says it will relocate naval exercises off the coast of Ireland after government officials in Dublin raised concerns about them amid President Vladimir Putin’s tense dispute with the West over the expansion of the NATO alliance and fears that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney this week objected to the war games, saying “This isn’t a time to increase military activity and tension in the context of what’s happening with and in Ukraine. 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.”
The February exercises were to be held from the 3rd to the 8th, roughly 150 miles (240 kilometers) off the coast of southwestern Ireland, in international waters, but within Ireland’s exclusive economic zone. Russia’s embassy in Ireland posted a letter on Facebook on Saturday from Ambassador Yuriy Filatov saying the exercises would be relocated outside of the Irish economic zone ”with the aim not to hinder fishing activities.”
When one get's their Irish up —
Russia relocates their "Naval Exercise" for 3-8 February to an undisclosed location outside of the Ireland EEZ ..
Irish fisherman 1 – Russia Navy 0 https://t.co/jNDlW1AAkD
— Christopher Burgess (@burgessct) January 29, 2022
The decision was a rare concession for the widely-feared Putin amid the escalating tensions surrounding Russia’s massing of an estimated 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and its demands that NATO promise never to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, stop the deployment of NATO weapons near Russian borders and roll back its forces from Eastern Europe.
Is Russia🇷🇺 cutting underseas cables that connect Europe & North America?
Ireland🇮🇪 thinks so, & and fishermen plan to disrupt a Russian Navy wargames next week that the Irish say is cover for cutting ops.
The world is relying on fishing boats. @maddow https://t.co/pPvHMIRmfl
— Laurie Garrett (@Laurie_Garrett) January 29, 2022
The U.S. and NATO formally rejected those demands this week, although Washington outlined areas where discussions are possible, offering hope that there could be a way to avoid war. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Friday that Putin could use any portion of his force to seize Ukrainian cities and “significant territories” or to carry out “coercive acts or provocative political acts” like the recognition of breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine which have been under the control of Russia-backed rebels since 2014.
This week I wrote to my counterpart, the Minister of Defence of Russia, to request a reconsideration of naval exercises off the Irish coast. This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response.
— Simon Coveney (@simoncoveney) January 29, 2022
Putin has made no public remarks about the Western response. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said it leaves little chance for reaching an agreement, though he also says Russia does not want war.