Thursday 22 February 2018

Russian envoys get death threats over MH17 attack

Security beefed up for Putin's man in Dublin after warning official residence will be torched

Russian Ambassador to Ireland
Russian Ambassador to Ireland
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

THE Russian Embassy in Ireland was forced to contact the Department of Foreign Affairs after receiving more than 30 death threats since the horrific Malaysian Airline tragedy in Ukraine.

Embassy staff were told they would be "lynched" for allegedly supporting Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, who have been blamed for shooting down the passenger jet.

There was also a threat to burn down Ambassador Maxim Peshkov's residence in Rathgar, south Dublin.

The threats, which were received by telephone, were made in both English and Russian. Mr Peshkov is currently out of the country.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent in the Russian Embassy, Deputy Ambassador Nikolay Ivanov said they were treating the threats "very seriously".

"According to diplomatic practice, we contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, asking them to provide us with the full security of the territory of the Russian Federation," he said.

"We do not have any information on who it might be because it was phone calls to the person on duty," he added.

The embassy has been on a high state of alert since the Malaysian Airlines jet was shot down by a missile allegedly fired from an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Mr Ivanov said it was "absolutely understandable" that people are feeling angry.

However, he said the anger was misplaced because Russia was not to blame for the plane crash, which claimed 298 lives.

In the wake of the tragedy, the international community pointed its finger towards Russia, claiming it provided the surface-to-air missiles to the rebels which shot down the plane travelling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Recently appointed Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the supply of weapons to Ukrainian rebels by Russia "fundamentally undermines the democratisation of Ukraine".

Speaking before a meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Brussels, Mr Flanagan said: "The Irish position is to facilitate and encourage democracy in Ukraine. That is currently being hampered by aggression on the part of the Russians."

Speaking for the first time to Irish media, Mr Ivanov said Mr Flanagan was entitled to his view but he denied outright that Russian President Vladimir Putin supplied weapons to Ukrainian separatists.

"Without any official conclusions from the independent investigation team, no one can blame anyone for the crime," Mr Ivanov said.

"We are begging the international community to show us the proof but they have not so far."

Ukraine has been gripped in a violent civil war since former president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted from power in February.

An uprising by Russian- speaking separatists in the Crimea region of Ukraine was followed by rebel groups forming in Donetsk and other eastern cities bordering Russia.

At least 270 people, including women and children, have been killed in daily battles between government forces and rebel groups in eastern Ukraine in the past three months.

Flight MH17 is believed to have been shot down by missiles over a region held by a group calling themselves the Donetsk People's Republic.

Independent investigators attempting to inspect the crash site were delayed 
for almost a week.

Mr Ivanov, however, claimed Ukrainian government forces prevented the investigation because it continued to shell the region and did not provide security for investigators.

"There is a lot of evidence of how the Ukrainian side deliberately hindered access," he said.

He also claimed Ukrainian forces shelled the roads on which Malaysian Airlines officials were travelling after obtaining the Boeing 777's black box recorders.

Russia is facing increased sanctions from the European Union, which could limit trade links with its nearest neighbours.

Mr Ivanov described the sanctions as a "two-way street" which would have consequences for the "ordinary people of Europe".

"If you impose sanctions on us and we have a relationship with you, it also affects you because you are part of that relationship," he said.

"When you impose sanctions on Russia it immediately brings a mirror reflection on the side that imposes the sanctions."

He added: "I would like to make it clear, we consider Ireland a friendly country. Within the European Union there is so-called solidarity and a decision needs to 
be taken unanimously but every country has its own interests."

Mr Ivanov said he was "completely shocked" by the tragedy and passed on his condolences to the families of those who died, including Irish woman Edel Mahady.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said it takes any reported threats to embassy officials "very seriously" and refers them to the gardai for investigation.

Sunday Independent

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