A rare concession amid escalating tensions around Russia, amassing about 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine.
Russia has said it will move naval exercises off the coast of Ireland after Dublin voiced concerns amid a tense dispute with the West over NATO’s enlargement and fears that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine.
The February 3-8 exercises were to take place 240 km (150 miles) from south-west Ireland – in international waters, but in Ireland’s exclusive economic zone. Ireland is a member of the European Union of 27 countries, but not a member of NATO.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Cowney objected to the war last week, saying: “This is not the time to increase military activity and tensions in the context of what is happening in and in Ukraine. The fact that they choose to do so on the western borders, if you will, of the EU, off the Irish coast, is something that we simply do not welcome.
Russia’s embassy in Ireland posted a letter on Facebook on Saturday from Ambassador Yuri Filatov, saying the exercises would be relocated outside the Irish Economic Zone “in order not to hamper fishing activities”.
The decision was a rare concession amid escalating tensions over Russia’s build-up of about 100,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and its demands that NATO promise never to allow Ukraine to join the alliance, to stop deploying NATO weapons near Russian borders and withdrew its forces from Eastern Europe.
The United States and NATO formally rejected the demands last week, although Washington has outlined areas for discussion, offering hope that there may be a way to avoid war.
“Provocative political actions”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has not made public remarks about the West’s reaction. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said this left little chance of reaching an agreement, although he also said Russia did not want a war.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Friday that Putin could use any part of his forces to seize Ukrainian cities and “significant territories” or carry out “coercive or provocative political actions” such as recognizing the breakaway territories. Ukraine.
Two territories in eastern Ukraine have been controlled by Russian-backed rebels since 2014, after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.
A Russian MP encourages residents of these parts of Ukraine to join the Russian army, a sign that Moscow is still trying to integrate these territories as much as possible. Viktor Vodolatsky said on Saturday that residents of rebel-held areas in eastern Ukraine fear attacks by Ukrainian forces, and those with Russian passports would be welcome in the Russian military.
Russia has issued passports to more than 500,000 people in rebel-held territory. Vodolatsky said the recruits would serve in Russia, but that left open the possibility for them to join any future invading force.
A senior official in President Joe Biden’s administration said the United States welcomed Lavrov’s comments that Russia did not want a war.
“But this must be backed up by action. We need to see that Russia is withdrawing some of the troops it has deployed from the Ukrainian border and is taking other steps to de-escalate, “said the official, who wished to remain anonymous as he was not authorized to speak in public.
Russia has launched military exercises involving motorized infantry and artillery units in southwestern Russia, fighter jets in Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea and dozens of warships in the Black Sea and Arctic.
Russian troops are also in Belarus for joint exercises, raising Western fears that Moscow may launch an attack on Ukraine from Belarus to the north. The Ukrainian capital is only 75 km (46 miles) from the border with Belarus.