Russia Moves Naval Drills Away From Irish Fishermen

Industry had planned to protest exercises by carrying on in its usual waters
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 26, 2022 7:45 PM CST
Updated Jan 29, 2022 6:00 PM CST
Irish Fishing Industry Objects to Russian Navy's Plans
Finland's Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, speaks with Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney during a meeting of EU foreign ministers at the European Council building in Brussels on Monday. Coveney has objected to Russia's plans for naval exercises off Ireland's coast.   (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

(Newser) Update: Faced with the possibility of entanglement with a flotilla of small fishing boats off the coast of Ireland, Russia said Saturday it will move its naval exercises. A letter from Ambassador Yuriy Filatov posted on Facebook said the drills, planned for Feb. 3-8, will take place away from the Irish economic zone "with the aim not to hinder fishing activities," the AP reports. Our original story from Wednesday follows:

It's not just Ukraine and NATO trying to pressure Russia over its military intentions. Ireland's fishing industry has objected to naval drills planned for early next month off the Irish coast and plans to ask Russia's ambassador to call them off. Patrick Murphy, CEO of the Irish South and West Fish Producers Organization, will meet with Ambassador Yury Filatov on Thursday in Dublin, the Irish Times reports. If Russia goes ahead, Murphy said Irish fishing trawlers will nonetheless keep fishing in the usual grounds in a peaceful protest. That plan has drawn warnings from Russia and Irish officials.

Russia reportedly told Ireland that such a move would be reckless and possibly dangerous. Ireland's deputy prime minister also cautioned potential protesters. "This is a major military power with nuclear weapons, with submarines," said Deputy PM Leo Varadkar, per the Times. "Let's not be naïve about that." The industry is concerned about damage to the ecosystem, including any effects from missiles being fired, per Politico Europe, saying that resulting seismic shocks could alter the migration pattern of tuna, for example. The war games are planned for a spot southwest of Cork, in international waters but in Ireland's exclusive economic zone. "This is the livelihoods of fishermen and fishing families all around the coastline here," Murphy said. "It's our waters."

There's another concern. Under the sea in the area of the exercises run fiber-optic cables connecting North America and Europe. Some analysts say the drills could be cover for cutting the cables, given the possibility of fighting between Russia and NATO over Ukraine by then. And international flights would have to be rerouted because of the firing of missiles. Varadkar said the whole thing could be designed as a show of force to the US and Britain, especially. Giving the growing tensions, Varadkar said it would "demonstrate goodwill" if Russia were to cancel the exercises. Russian warships already have been spotted steaming toward Ireland. Ireland's navy consists of nine ships. (Read more Russian military stories.)

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