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Russian jets 'regularly' fly near Irish airspace


Tensions: Russian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency, Maxim Peshkov

Tensions: Russian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency, Maxim Peshkov

Tony Gavin

Tensions: Russian Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency, Maxim Peshkov

The Russian Ambassador to Ireland has revealed high-powered Russian jets "regularly" carry out military exercises near Irish Airspace.

Speaking after a week of international tensions over the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey, Maxim Peshkov said there was "nothing extraordinary" about Moscow-ordered airforce training missions near the Irish coast.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Peshkov also warned Irish people to be more "attentive" to the possibility of a terror attack in this country as fears grow worldwide over the rise of Islamic extremism.

And he insisted Ireland should work with our young people to ensure they are not "zombied or brainwashed by radicals".

The Government was severely critical of Russia earlier this year after two high-powered Russian bombers entered Irish controlled territory without prior warning.

However, a defiant Mr Peshkov last week insisted the Irish Aviation Authority had "no difficulty" with Russian jets flying in this area.

"I don't know if we do it every day, I am not military, but these flights are usual, regular and nothing extraordinary," he told the Sunday Independent.

"By the way I must stress that these kind of flights are made not only by our planes but by planes of NATO, by American flights," he added.

With relations between Russia and Turkey at an all time low, Mr Peshkov laid blame for the aircraft attack near the Syrian border squarely at the door of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Ambassador suggested President Erdogan's policy is being influenced by the "illegal" importation of oil into Turkey from areas controlled by ISIS in Syria and said Turkish claims about shooting down the Russian jet after issuing warnings are "slippery".

Turkey claimed the Russian bomber was given several instructions to leave its airspace before it was gunned down.

"Our pilots, fortunately one of them is alive, say that there was no signal from Turkey. We have a special agreement with Turkey - a special call line for Minister for Defence between Turkey and Russia they did not use this," Mr Peshkov said.

"This plane was shot 1km in Syria and fell in Syria. All these things the Turks are saying are slippery," he added.

However, he said Russia has no intention of declaring war on Turkey and yesterday Mr Erodgan publicly stated regret over the incident saying he "wished it hadn't happened".

While the possibility of a terror attack in Ireland is not high, Mr Peshkov said people should be aware of "the essence of what is terrorism".

"Be more attentive maybe to what is happening around you. I don't mean any kind of panic but to be aware," he added.

"You were rather good in dealing (with the) rather sharp and special relationship between Catholics and Protestant, so maybe you can use your own experience with what to do and how to do now."

He said Ireland is "lucky" it is an island country and has not experienced the "tremendous wave of refugees" seen in other European states.

He also claimed the majority of refugees arriving in Europe are not from war-torn areas of the Middle East but rather economic migrants from East Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

"I must say the majority of them are not from Syria and I must say that is not our statistics, it is European statistics, the majority of them are not political refugees, the majority of them are economic migrants."

The Ambassador said because Irish people are "very tolerant" and "open hearted" we are better prepared for the dealing with the threat posed by radicalisation.

"The better this mutual understanding goes on the less the possibility of any radicalism or terrorism to spread here," he said.

Last week, Russia pledged to join forces with France in targeting ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq after both countries' citizens were targeted by the terror group. Mr Peshkov who has served as a diplomat in Iran and Afghanistan insisted ISIS fighters are mercenaries "fighting for money".

He also claimed Iraq was more stable under Saddam Hussein and Syria Bashar al-Assad

"We can call Hussein and Assad dictators, but under their rule the countries were stable and the domestic interests to an extent balanced, especially in Syria," he said.

"They were balanced. Now everything is exploded. So before you do something think of what will happen afterwards. What we see in Iraq is complete hell, the same in Syria, in Libya now the whole Middle East and no only Middle East but northern part of Africa."

Sunday Independent