Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Oireachtas Foreign Affairs Committee has issued an invitation to the Russian Embassy for the ambassador to appear before it to face questions on planned naval exercises.

As reported in the Irish Examiner, the invitation was issued to ambassador Yury Filatovas as Russian warships make their way to Irish waters to carry out manoeuvres.

On Thursday evening, the chair of the Oireachtas Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee confirmed that Mr Filatov had been invited to appear before TDs and senators to face questions about the naval exercises.

Charlie Flanagan, a former foreign affairs minister, told RTÉ radio he hoped that the ambassador would accept the invitation.

“I hope he does accept our invitation. And without pre-empting what he might or might not do, he has been in before,” he said.

“I expect he will engage positively.”

Mr Flannagan also mentioned that the ambassador’s meeting with the Chief of Staff of the Irish Defence Forces Lieutenant General Sean Clancy was another matter to be discussed.

Earlier on Thursday, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney expressed “full confidence” in Mr Clancy in the Dáil after having told his Fine Gael colleagues on Wednesday that he was “surprised” to see the meeting referenced on social media.

The subject of Russian naval exercises has also been a source of concern for the Irish fishing industry.

Industry representatives met with the Russian ambassador amid an ongoing row over the plans.

Speaking after the talks, fishing representatives said that they had been a given a guarantee by Russia’s ambassador that their fishing grounds will not be affected by the navy exercises.

However, The Irish Times reports that the Russian embassy have disputed the claims by fishermen that the ambassador gave them “an absolute guarantee” on the matter.

“There was no discussion of guarantees of any kind,” the embassy’s spokesman Nikita Isakin said in a statement released to The Irish Times.

Impact on gas prices

Amid the dispute surrounding the planned naval exercises, Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said that the Government is aware that gas prices could increase due to tensions in Russia.

According to Ms Humphries, measures such as the exceptional needs payment and fuel allowance will be kept under review.

“We had the biggest social protect budget in 14 years, we had across-the-board increases, and in addition to the across-the-board increases, we had targeted increases in a number of different areas,” she said.

“These are things that we certainly keep in review, that we will continue to do that because that’s the role of social protection to look out to the people who are receiving these benefits.”

-Additional reporting by PA

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