By Sean Mulryan – Current Affairs Editor
The Russian Embassy has reacted to plans made by some members of the Irish South and West Fish producers (IS&WFPO) to peacefully protest against Russian military exercises in international waters, warning it would be an “irresponsible act”.
The embassy released a statement responding to the plans of numerous IS&WFPO members: “While we understand the concerns of fishermen about the integrity of marine resources, there are neither grounds nor scientific data to believe that these exercises would influence the biodiversity of the ocean”.
“At the same time, we would think that any attempts to interfere with military exercises would be reckless and irresponsible act which could put in harms way both sailors and fishermen.” Likewise, Russian ambassador Yury Filatov communicated in Dublin that there is zero threat intended towards Ireland, and the mass reaction to these exercises has been “hugely overblown”. The plans for a peaceful intervention have arisen as a result of Russian military exercises 240km southwest of Ireland, amid current fears of an invasion of Ukraine. Whilst no one fears an invasion of Ireland, these exercises have come at great concern for the Biodiversity of the particular area that these operations are being performed. The Chief Executive Officer of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation Patrick Murphy described the area as integral for fishing operations and priority must be placed upon the protection of
marine life in the area.
Mr Murphy emphatically reproached the Russian statements: “Can you imagine if the Russians were applying to go onto the mainland of Ireland to go launching rockets, how far would they get with that? It’s no different to fishermen, this is our ground, this is our farm, this is where we earn our living.” The fear of the unknown is the main concern in this situation according to Mr Murphy, with little information made available with regards to the full extent of these exercises leading to major concern for marine life and the impact it will have on livelihoods of fishermen in the area. The CEO of IS&WFPO informed Politico that there are currently half a billion tonnes of blue whiting in the area of matter, with the serious reality of seismic shocks incurring as a result of these drills, disrupting migration patterns of the marine life.
Despite Russia’s threat that any protest would be irresponsible, Patrick Murphy expects that the foreign navy will abide by anti-collision regulations. Whilst these training exercises are not considered an infraction upon Irish sovereignty or international law, the timing and placement of these exercises are concerning given the ongoing situation regarding Ukraine. On the international stage, Russia’s continued build-up of military strength on the Ukraine border has stoked fears of an invasion in recent weeks. Russia refuses Ukraine and other ex-Soviet countries entry to NATO along with other ultimatums, with the President of the United States Joe Biden declaring a “total unanimity” on how to approach the situation with Russia amid intensifying tensions.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar was briefed on the situation earlier this week and has implored the Russian military to halt its military operations occurring in the vicinity of Ireland, despite it being outside of Irish territory. He said: “We have made it very clear that these exercises are not welcome, particularly in the current context, when tensions are rising in relation to Ukraine…The Russian exercises off the coast of Cork and Kerry, while not illegal, are not welcome.”