The Irish premier has condemned “outrageous” actions of Russia in Ukraine and promised harsh new sanctions from the EU.
In a specially convened press conference at Government Buildings, Micheal Martin called the actions of Russia “an outrageous and moral breach of the most fundamental and basic principles of international law”.
He said the EU would introduce “severe” sanctions against Russian leaders.
“Our thoughts must be with the innocent people of Ukraine at this, their most difficult hour.
“We stand with them.”
He said Europe was dealing with the “most grave security situation it has faced in decades, with repercussions for global security and the world economy”.
“It cannot and it will not go unanswered.
“President Putin and those who support him will be held accountable.
“This evening, I will join with our partners in the European Union in Brussels to adopt the most severe package of sanctions we have ever considered.
“They will be aimed to hit Putin and his henchmen where it hurts the most.
“EU sanctions will target strategic sectors of the Russian economy, blocking access to markets and to technologies.”
“Assets in the EU will be frozen.
“They will have impacts in the EU, including in Ireland, and I will work with fellow leaders to support those hit hardest.
“This aggression by Russia will cause untold hardship and tragedy for the Government and people of Ukraine who have shown remarkable resilience and resolve.
“We will not be found wanting in offering them the humanitarian support they will need.”
Mr Martin paid tribute to two Irish diplomats working in Kyiv and said that the Government was “maintaining close contact with Irish citizens in Ukraine”.
He said that their safety is “paramount”.
Mr Martin also said that the Ireland can especially understand the plight of Ukrainians.
“As a small country in particular, today’s use of brute force in pursuit of a warped perception of national interest is a serious affront,” he said.
Taking questions from reporters, Mr Martin said that he expected to find “unity” in Brussels over the necessary response.
He said that sanctions should not be “incremental” and needed to be “immediate”.
Mr Martin said that the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice were working together to start the process of waiving the visas requirements for all Ukrainian citizens entering Ireland.
“There will be a significant migration issue arising from these attacks. We will have to play our part in helping those who will have to flee Ukraine.”
He said that any military response from the western countries was not something to be lightly considered.
“The economic sanctions and dealing with this in a different way from the military route is the most effective one to protect the lives of people across Europe.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko said her country is facing a “challenging, alarming and threatening” time.
Speaking from the Ukrainian embassy in Dublin, Ms Gerasko said: “Not only Ukraine, but I would say the whole world.
“Today a full-scale armed conflict in the heart of Europe was launched by Russia.
“Russia has deliberately humiliated the UN, the rule of law and the democratic purpose.
“The Kremlin stated countless times that it is open to diplomatic dialogue.
“Last night, President Zelensky called Putin to discuss possible settlement or possible steps that would lead to de-escalation, but Putin declined this call and that’s everything we need to know abut Russian diplomacy.”
Ms Gerasko called on the Irish Government and for EU leaders to introduce tougher sanctions against Russia.
“In order for a tougher package of sanctions we have to target a wider number of entities, Russian entities, Russian banks, Russian companies and Russian oligarchs,” she said.
“These package of sanctions must heed Russian economy.
“So now the question is where does Putin stop?
“We are ready to return to the round table of negotiations. And, of course, our western partners, EU member states, the UK and the USA also use all possible means to get Russia to return to the table for further negotiations.”
In the Dail on Thursday evening, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney confirmed that the Irish Embassy is no longer operating in Kyiv.
“Our staff and other staff are transferring to a safe place as we speak,” he told the Dail.
He also provided an update on the plans for a visa waiver scheme for Ukrainian nationals.
Mr Coveney said that he was working with the Irish justice minister to “put a structure and system in place that will allow Ukrainian citizens in Ireland bring their families from Ukraine to Ireland, if they judge that that’s necessary for safety reasons”.
He said that he will ensure that the “system works and is streamlined”.
“Likewise for Irish citizens who are in Ukraine, who of course want to bring their families with them home who may not be Irish nationals, we will also ensure that we have a process in place that will allow them to do that quickly and without impediments,” Mr Coveney added.