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Micheál Martin in Ukraine: Taoiseach expresses Ireland’s solidarity as he meets President Zelensky

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin with local officials viewing the damage to buildings in the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as he visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukraine. Picture: PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin with local officials viewing the damage to buildings in the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as he visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukraine. Picture: PA

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets Taoiseach Micheal Martin ahead of a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Ukraine Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets Taoiseach Micheal Martin ahead of a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Ukraine Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials and members of the Irish Emergency Response Unit viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials and members of the Irish Emergency Response Unit viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to the media at the Grand Central Hotel, during his visit to Belfast for NI protocol talks with Stormont leaders and meet business representatives, at the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. Picture date: Friday May 20, 2022

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks to the media at the Grand Central Hotel, during his visit to Belfast for NI protocol talks with Stormont leaders and meet business representatives, at the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast. Picture date: Friday May 20, 2022

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to offer a major training operation he believes could "change the equation" against the Russian invasion. Picture date: Friday June 17, 2022

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to offer a major training operation he believes could "change the equation" against the Russian invasion. Picture date: Friday June 17, 2022

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin with local officials viewing the damage to buildings in the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as he visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukraine. Picture: PA

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has held a press conference with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

He entered Ukraine by train after overnighting in Poland on his special mission to see the conflict’s damage for himself.

Mr Martin has expressed the Irish people’s solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russia’s "illegal and immoral" invasion.

The Taoiseach was invited to visit Ukraine by President Zelensky on foot of Ireland’s strong support for Ukraine’s EU candidate bid last month.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin Niall Carson/PA Wire

Mr Martin has witnessed first-hand the devastation caused by the bombardment and targeted attacks on civilians during the invasion and occupation by Russian forces.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin began a trip to the Ukrainian capital by viewing the conflict-scarred suburbs of Borodyanka, Bucha and Irpin.

The tour included a sombre visit to the site of a mass grave in the grounds of a church in Bucha.

Ireland has increased its financial contribution to the International Criminal Court in order to help bring war criminals to justice, the Taoiseach has told a press conference in Kyiv.

Mr Martin, flanked by President Zelensky, said the Russian invasion of the “beautiful, democratic country” of Ukraine was itself a “gross violation of international law” as well as an affront to everything Ireland stands for.

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks with local officials whilst viewing the damage to the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Ukraine Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks with local officials whilst viewing the damage to the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Ukraine Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

Micheal Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv (Niall Carson/PA)

Micheal Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks with local officials whilst viewing the damage to the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks with local officials whilst viewing the damage to the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin views an exhibition of photographs at the site of a mass grave found at the Church of St Andrew the First-Called in Bucha (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin views an exhibition of photographs at the site of a mass grave found at the Church of St Andrew the First-Called in Bucha (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin viewing the damage to the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko in Borodyanka (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin viewing the damage to the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko in Borodyanka (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the city of Irpin (Niall Carson/PA)

Taoiseach Micheal Martin with local officials viewing the damage to the city of Irpin (Niall Carson/PA)

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaks with local officials whilst viewing the damage to the city of Irpin, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. PA Photo. See PA story POLITICS Ukraine Ireland. Photo credit should read: Niall Carson/PA Wire

He said he had already told the Russian Federation and President Putin of Ireland’s view that the attack of February 24 was “unwarranted aggression.”

President Zelensky thanked “our Irish friends” for cancelling visas for Ukrainian citizens who had become refugees, which was a welcome gesture of solidarity, adding that Russia had carried out genocide against his country. He was also thankful for Ireland’s support for future Ukrainian reconstruction, he said. “Ukraine appreciates everything Ireland has done

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He said he believed the Taoiseach had not seen any NATO bases in Borodyansk, Bucha or Irpin on his visit to see the devastation and mass graves brought about by the Russian war criminals.

President Zelensky also thanked Mr Martin for Ireland’s support for Ukraine’s EU membership candidacy. “I am very grateful for your support,” he said. “We have turned a new page of bilateral relations between Ireland and Ukraine.”

Mr Martin expressed admiration for President Zelensky’s leadership, saying the Irish people “are with you.” Russia’s aggression could not and would not be allowed to stand, he said.

He had learned in great detail of the atrocities committed in the three towns he visited and had been told of the great need to get kindergartens and schools opened this September. “The use of terror and the deliberate targeting of civilians are war crimes,” he said, and those committing them would be held accountable with no hiding place.

“That is why we have provided additional funding to the International Criminal Court, to give it the capacity to follow up on these crimes,” he said.

The Taoiseach said he wanted to pay tribute to President Zelensky and his Government on achieving EU candidate status. The values that people were fighting and dying for in Ukraine were European values and Irish values, he said.

The outcome was “richly deserved” and “Ireland will be with you every step of the way on the journey” to membership, he said. “We will do everything we can to help you work with the EU institutions and Commission.”

Irish people had been “enormously moved” by the suffering and courage of the people of Ukraine and every Irish town and city was “a sea of yellow and blue,” he said. “We have welcomed almost 40,000 Ukrainians fleeing the war. Our home is your home.

“But we do know that they want to come back home, and you want them back as quickly as possible also,” he told the President.

He said both Ireland and Ukraine had experienced famine. “We are equally horrified now that food could be again used today as an instrument of war.”

It was inhuman for food not to get through to those who needed it, he said.

Mr Martin said the strong and unbreakable bond between the Irish and Ukrainian people were only becoming even more firm as a result of the conflict, he added.

A war intended to crush and fragment a whole people had instead only strengthened the country and its people, he said.

Mr Martin finished: “Long live Ukraine. Slava Ukraini (Glory to Ukraine).”

Under questioning from a Ukrainian journalist in the absence of press from Ireland, Mr Martin said Ireland had never put a limit on Ukrainian refugees "because it was our moral obligation to respond."

He said: "There is no choice for us but to do the right thing, at a time of such barbarity and inhumanity.

"We haven't got into how much more (refugees may arrive), but it has slowed down in the last while, and it (arrivals from Ukraine) hasn't grown in the way people thought it would at the beginning of the war."

Ukrainian children were settling in well in Irish schools, he said. Mr Martin said he had seen the pictures of dead civilians when touring the wrecked settlements around Kyiv, and it was because of what was done that Ireland had "no choice" but to respond.

Mr Martin said: "Russia must end its aggression. The mayors of the three cities were anxious to point out to me that they were not military bases. They (the Russians) attacked civilians."

Such horrors were "things I find very hard to understand," coming from Ireland, he added.

Mr Martin was using the visit to Kyiv to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion.

His day-long itinerary in the war-torn city began with a trip to Borodyanka – a town on the outskirts of Kyiv that has suffered widespread damage under Russian shelling.

On the 30-minute drive from the railway station, the Taoiseach passed Hostomel airport, where his convoy stopped to observe a demolished bridge.

The delegation also drove past bombed-out warehouses, shopping centres and petrol stations.

The scale of Ukrainian efforts to defend their capital was evident, with numerous bunkers and fortifications visible on the journey.

In Borodyanka, Mr Martin met the town’s mayor and viewed apartment blocks gutted by fire during the Russian bombardment.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

From there, Mr Martin visited the site of a mass grave in Bucha.

The grave was discovered in the grounds of the church of St Andrew.

A local cleric showed Mr Martin the site and an associated exhibition of graphic photographs of exhumed bodies and pictures of civilians left dead on the streets of the suburb when Russian forces retreated.

The Irish delegation then travelled to nearby Irpin where the Taoiseach was shown badly-damaged apartment blocks that had been hit by Russian shells.

Afterwards, Mr Martin said: “It is difficult to comprehend the devastation and inhumanity of Russia’s attacks on Irpin, Borodyanka and Bucha.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (right) with Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine Niall Carson/PA Wire

He will restate Ireland’s full backing for continuing sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership, as well as Ireland’s commitment to work with the EU on the reconstruction of Ukraine.

Mr Martin’s trip comes two weeks after President Volodymyr Zelensky invited him to visit Ukraine.

It is the first visit by a Taoiseach to the eastern European country.

It also comes after Mr Putin on Monday declared victory in seizing the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk, with his troops escalating their offensive in neighbouring Donetsk.

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Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials and members of the Irish Emergency Response Unit viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials and members of the Irish Emergency Response Unit viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin with local officials and members of the Irish Emergency Response Unit viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area of Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits the region to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

“Clear how important it is for women and children to get to Ireland to escape trauma and brutality. We stand with Ukraine.”

In meetings later on Wednesday, Mr Martin will discuss how Ireland and the EU can support Ukraine.

Mr Martin will restate Ireland’s full backing for continuing sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime, for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership, as well as Ireland’s commitment to work with the EU on the reconstruction of Ukraine.

“The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s immoral and unprovoked war of terror,” he said.

“The bombardment and attacks on civilians are nothing short of war crimes, and I will use my visit to express Ireland’s support for moves to hold those behind these attacks fully accountable.

“The spirit and resolve of the Ukrainian people has inspired us all, and Ireland will provide every support for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership, and continue to welcome and support civilians fleeing this war.”

Mr Martin’s trip comes two weeks after President Volodymyr Zelensky invited him to visit Ukraine.

It is the first visit by a Taoiseach to the eastern European country.

It also comes after Mr Putin on Monday declared victory in seizing the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk, with his troops escalating their offensive in neighbouring Donetsk.

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Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to offer a major training operation he believes could "change the equation" against the Russian invasion. Picture date: Friday June 17, 2022.

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to offer a major training operation he believes could "change the equation" against the Russian invasion. Picture date: Friday June 17, 2022.

Handout photo issued by the Ukrainian Presidential Press Office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv to offer a major training operation he believes could "change the equation" against the Russian invasion. Picture date: Friday June 17, 2022.

Mr Martin has warned previously that the Russian president appeared to be leveraging its natural gas supplies to exert maximum pressure on Europe ahead of the winter period.

The Taoiseach has also been a vocal advocate for Ukraine’s fast-tracked membership of the EU.

Mr Zelensky has previously thanked Ireland for its “active support of Ukraine’s European aspirations”.

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Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Taoiseach Michael Martin viewing the damage to the Borodyanka area, including the statue of poet Taras Shevchenko, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022. Niall Carson/PA Wire

Ireland has also taken in more than 36,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine at the end of February.

The Irish State has given 20 million euro in humanitarian support and assistance to the country, as well as health equipment and medical donations worth more than 4.5 million euro.

In April, fellow cabinet minister Simon Coveney became the first foreign minister of the UN Security Council to visit Kyiv, and met Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.


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