The Russian Ambassador’s claim that images of the death and destruction left behind by retreating Russian forces were staged by Ukraine is “preposterous,” according to the Taoiseach.
Ukraine’s President Volodymr Zelenskyy has accused Russia of carrying out war crimes in occupied Ukrainian territory and warned that more than 300 civilians were tortured and murdered in the town of Bucha near Kyiv.
Ukrainian authorities have warned that Bucha is “not an exception” with similar reports emerging from other towns and cities occupied during the invasion.
The Kremlin has dismissed the images as “fake news” and in a statement yesterday, the Russian Ambassador to Ireland Yury Filatov claimed the images were “staged”.
Speaking on his way into Cabinet this morning, the Taoiseach Micheál Martin dismissed Ambassador Filatov’s stance.
“I think that is a preposterous position that the Russian Ambassador has put forward and indeed that the Russian federation is putting forward,” he said.
“We are increasingly hearing of accounts from independent observers in relation to the barbaric nature of this war and particularly the indiscriminate murder of civilians.
“Indeed, international media and those media outlets from reputable organisations that are in Ukraine are bearing witness to this and conveying this back to us.”
President Zelenskyy is due to address both houses of the Oireachtas tomorrow morning and Ambassador Filatov has declined an invitation to attend.
Asked whether Ireland would consider expelling Ambassador Filatov due the massacre in Buch and other atrocities in Ukraine, Mr Martin said nothing had been ruled out.
“Fundamentally, I think our relationship with Russia has changed because we are outraged by this immoral and barbaric attack on the civilians of Ukraine,” he said.
“What we are witnessing is utterly reprehensible behaviour and, along with our EU colleagues now, we are looking at a further round of sanctions.
“We will consult with other member states across European as we have been over the last number of days to decide on further action.
“It has always been my view that the more we can do together as a European Union, along with the US, Canada and the UK, the more impactful it can be on Russia itself.”
He noted that Ireland expelled four senior Russian officials last week and the Government "hasn't ruled anything out at any stage".
“There is a further round of sanctions to be decided up now fairly imminently in respect on this continuing barbaric war,” he said.
The Taoiseach said the ongoing war and the sanctions would continue to impact on the Irish economy – but insisted the blame lay firmly with the Kremlin.
“We are in a wartime situation and [Russian President Vladimir] Putin has brought this on the people of Ukraine and indeed has caused this uncertainty and instability across the continent of Europe and indeed the world,” he said.
“So economically we are in for a more difficult phase than we would have anticipated before the war, but we have our 90 days’ [gas] supply and we are keeping a very close eye on this.”
He said the Irish economy “bounced back very strongly” from COVID restrictions and was now facing further uncertainty.
“Employment is high and the economy overall has done well; however, we are facing into a very, very uncertain situation now because of this war,” he said.
“It is having supply-chain effects. It is having an impact on energy particularly, on food and on other commodities and we will be discussing that again today.”
Newstalk has contacted the Russian Embassy for comment on Ambassador Filatov’s invitation to Leinster House for tomorrow’s address.