The Russian Embassy in Ireland has criticised comments made by Taoiseach Micheál Martin about Ukrainian nationalism.
Speaking at the National Famine Commemoration on Sunday, Mr Martin said Ukraine’s nationalism was “not an aggressive and exclusionary nationalism, but a nationalism which we and so many others can relate to.”
Mr Martin commented on the welcome Ireland has given Ukrainian refugees.
He said Ukraine’s own national story had been scarred by experiences of famine.
“And of course, we are steadfast in our solidarity with the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against a brutal and unjust war waged against them by a neo-imperial power,” he said.
“When the people of Ukraine voted for independence, they did so in a spirit of self-reliance and without rancour.
“They chose for themselves a simple flag of a clear sky over fields of wheat. It was not an aggressive and exclusionary nationalism, but a nationalism which we and so many others can relate to.”
However, the Russian Embassy in Ireland has taken issue with the Taoiseach’s comments and said his assessment “calls for a closer look at certain basic facts, which would allow any independent observer to assess the nature of the Ukraine’s version of nationalism”.
The embassy’s comments come as the Russian invasion on Ukraine continue, with a leading human rights watchdog saying on Wednesday it had documented further cases of "apparent war crimes" by Russian troops in two regions in Ukraine.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report that Russian forces controlling much of the Kyiv and Chernihiv regions from late February through March had subjected civilians to summary executions, torture and other grave abuses.
The report pointed to what HRW said were 22 apparent summary executions, nine other unlawful killings, six possible enforced disappearances and seven cases of torture. Twenty-one civilians told HRW about unlawful confinement in inhuman and degrading conditions, it said. HRW called for the alleged abuses to be "impartially investigated and appropriately prosecuted".
Responding to the Taoiseach in a statement online, the Embassy said Ukrainian nationalism presented itself in “radical and violent forms” in the first half of the 20th century.
It also claimed that “to this day authorities in Kiev openly encourage xenophobia, radical nationalism and neo-Nazism at all levels”.
“The history of the Ukrainian nationalism dates back to the XVIII century. However, only in the first half of the 20th century, it took its extremely radical and violent forms,” the statement said.
The Embassy accused Ukrainian authorities of condoning “the growth of nationalist, Ukrainian supremacist sentiments in society and flirted with radicals for political purposes” from 1990 to 2000.
The Embassy also accused authorities in Ukraine’s capital carried out a policy, which was aimed at “infringing the rights of the Russian speaking population”.
It ended its statement by asking a question of the Irish public, it said: “The question is – are the Irish and many other peoples really ready to relate to such nationalism?”