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Simon Coveney in Kyiv: Minister taken by special forces to secret location for talks

Foreign Affairs Minister taken by special forces to secret location to meet officials

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Around 23,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland.

Around 23,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland.

Simon Coveney

Simon Coveney

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Around 23,000 Ukrainian refugees have already arrived in Ireland.

Simon Coveney has travelled to Kyiv to hold talks with the Ukrainian government about how Ireland can continue to support the war-torn country.

The Foreign Affairs Minister, who a rrived in Kyiv last night, will also tell Ukrainian officials and politicians that Ireland will support their efforts to join the European Union.

Mr Coveney travelled to Poland with the Defence Forces before being picked up at the border by the Ukraine Special Forces, who took him to a secure location in the besieged capital.

He was accompanied by Ireland’s ambassador to Ukraine, Therese Healy, as well as a political adviser and a close protection team from the Garda Emergency Response Unit (GRU).

The visit to Ukraine is the first by any foreign minister on the United Nations Security Council since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.

Mr Coveney’s spokespersons said discussions with the Ukrainian government would focus on how Ireland could continue to provide political, security and humanitarian support, assist Ukraine in its application for EU candidate status, take forward further EU sanctions on Russia and hold Vladimir Putin to account for his “brutal and unjustified invasion”.

“The minister plans to report back to the UN Security Council, where Ireland holds a seat,” the spokesperson said.

“Ireland has provided €20m in humanitarian aid to Ukraine and Ukrainian refugees in neighbouring counties and €33m in non-lethal assistance for the Ukrainian military through the European Peace Facility.

“Ireland has been at the forefront of putting in place a robust EU sanctions regime and of supporting international mechanisms to hold Russia to account for grave violations of international humanitarian law, including referring the situation in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court.”

Meanwhile, thousands of Ukrainian refugees could be housed in “tent cities” from as soon as next Monday as space in hotels runs out and only half of the people who offered space in their homes followed through on their pledges.

Between 90pc and 95pc of new refugees arriving in Ireland in the coming days will be placed in emergency accommodation.

This includes tent camps and camp beds in community or sports halls.

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The Millstreet tent camp in Co Cork will be in operation from Monday.

The Department of Children is looking to renew and extend contracts with hotels and guesthouses.

It is also trying to urgently source alternative accommodation for those refugees who are currently staying in hotels.

A G overnment spokesperson said there would be “increased pressure” for short-term accommodation and added that it wa s increasingly likely that the tent camp in Cork would be used to accommodate people as soon as it wa s ready from Monday.

Of the 24,000 pledges of accommodation made by members of the Irish public to the Red Cross, around half have either been withdrawn or the person who made the initial offer cannot be contacted.

All those who have made pledges are expected to be contacted over the next week, the Cabinet has been told.

The accommodation crisis facing Ukrainian refugees comes as more than 81pc of all arrivals are seeking somewhere to stay.

Some additional capacity will be created by local authorities over the coming days.

However, ministers were told this would consist of “dormitory-style accommodation” involving camp beds set
up in community and sports halls.

As many as 42,000 Ukrainian refugees will have arrived in Ireland by the end of May, according to the latest projections provided to ministers on Tuesday.

However, between 52,000 and 69,000 could be here if the number of daily arrivals averages between 580 and 900 in the coming weeks.

Around 23,000 Ukrainians have already arrived in the country.

Meanwhile a group of Irish-based Ukrainians and their supporters are planning to gather outside Leinster House at noon today to call for Ireland to ban the Russian war sign Z.

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