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Russia Agrees To Move Naval Exercises Away From Irish Coast After Outcry

The Russian Navy had planned to conduct military exercises of Ireland southwest coast on February 3-8. (file photo)
The Russian Navy had planned to conduct military exercises of Ireland southwest coast on February 3-8. (file photo)

Russia will not conduct naval exercises in international waters off the southwest coast of Ireland next week as planned, Moscow's ambassador to Ireland said on January 29.

Ambassador Yury Filatov said in a statement that Russia decided to relocate the naval exercises as a "gesture of goodwill" to Dublin and Irish fishing groups.

Ireland was notified last week that the exercises would take place about 240 kilometers off its southwest coast within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) but not its territorial waters.

The announcement of the drills, originally planned for February 3-8, had caused considerable controversy in Ireland.

Some Irish fishermen had expressed concern that the use of military sonar could damage marine life and some said they planned to protest near the area where they were due to take place.

Earlier this week Filatov told Irish authorities that there were no grounds for concern over the maneuvers and said Ireland had been “duly notified” about the exercises, according to TASS.

But the statement on January 29 said in response to the requests from the Irish government and the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organisation, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu decided to relocate the exercises “as a gesture of goodwill” outside the EEZ “with the aim not to hinder fishing activities by the Irish vessels in the traditional fishing areas."

It is not known where the naval exercises will take place.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter he had written to Shoigu to ask that Russia reconsider conducting the exercises off the Irish coast.

“This evening I received a letter confirming the Russian exercises will be relocated outside of Ireland’s EEZ. I welcome this response,” Coveney said.

The plans were especially unwelcome at a time when the United States and other Western countries fear Russia could be preparing to invade Ukraine after amassing more than 100,000 troops near its borders.

Russia denies it is planning any invasion of its neighbor. Ireland, which is not a member of NATO, has not independently had a stake in efforts to resolve tensions over Ukraine.

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and TASS
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