Russia does not view Ireland as an enemy but the “policies of the Irish Government” are another matter, the Russian Ambassador has warned.
On The Pat Kenny Show this morning Ambassador Yuri Filatov criticised western countries for their “nuclear alarmism” in recent weeks – insisting Vladimir Putin never threatened to use nuclear weapons.
He also said the conscription of around 300,000 reservists for the war in Ukraine is not unpopular in Russia and said President Putin remains in good health.
Asked about whether Ireland’s support for sanctions on Russia would impact on relations between the two countries he said: “I don’t think Ireland is our enemy.”
“I know many people in the country who are still friends of ours and will be I am pretty sure,” he said.
“The [...] policies of the Irish Government is something else. There is certainly an unfriendly policy towards Russia and that has been stated quite clearly on many occasions.”
Asked whether Russia would use nuclear weapons as the war drags on, he said: “I don’t see any inclination to do that.”
“The President has not said anything suggesting he is planning nuclear strikes,” he said.
“Nothing in our position on the nuclear issue has changed. All the pertaining fundamental documents are in place and enforced. What we have been reminding our international audience is that these documents provide that in certain circumstances - such as an existential threat to Russia - the nuclear weapons could be used and there should be no doubt about that.
“That is solely for the knowledge of the people who have been quite clearly outspoken on this with the nuclear alarmist rhetoric – which is probably the worst thing that could be done under these circumstances.”
He said Russia has a “very clear and consistent policy” on nuclear weapons – “The nuclear war should not be waged and cannot be won.”
Asked about President Putin’s health the ambassador said: “I am pretty much confident that the president is in good health and I wish him to stay this way,” he said.
He noted that Russia is due to hold Presidential Elections again in 2024 and “we will see what will be there”.
“At this point in time, the president is hugely popular in the country,” he said. “He is leading the people under very difficult circumstances and he has all the remits of really a good leader despite all the rumours and whatever you mention.”
Ambassador Filatov also rejected the idea that the conscription of 300,000 reservists for the war effort has been unpopular.
“There are some expressions of discontent but that certainly is to be expected - some people could be scared - but at the same time, we even have a huge number of volunteers who are not supposed to be conscripted but they go,” he said.
He said the people trying to escape conscription amount to a tiny proportion of the force available.
“If you take numbers, the mobilisation resource of Russia - the overall mobilisation of Russia - is about 25 million. What we are talking about now is mobilising just 1% of that, which is roughly 300,000.
“The people on the Georgian border and elsewhere, well that might be 2,000 or 3,000 people, so these numbers do not add up. It is not a major issue.
“The mobilisation is supported by the people and I’m pretty sure it will be done according to the plans of the Ministry of Defence.”