The Russian ambassador to Ireland has hit out at the Taoiseach’s recent speech on the war in Ukraine which described planned referenda in the region as “shams”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday.
He said: “Now we see President Putin plan sham referenda in eastern Ukraine, aimed at forcibly changing Ukraine’s borders, in clear violation of the UN Charter. We have to name what we are seeing.
Voting has been organised, at short notice, for this week in four areas of Ukraine occupied by the Russian army.
Residents have been told to vote on proposals for these areas to declare independence and then join Russia.
In a public statement on Friday Ambassador Yuriy Filatov described Mr Martin’s comments on human rights as “regrettable”.
He claimed: “It is regrettable that, judging by the Taoiseach narrative on Ukrainian conflict, these principles do not apply to the people of Eastern Ukraine – Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics, Zaporozhie and Kherson regions.”
He said the Taoiseach’s speech did not represent the situation as he sees it.
He alleged: “Indeed, the speech fails to mention that for eight years Russian speaking people of Donbass have been deprived of their fundamental rights and freedoms, above all – the right to live.”
He further claimed: “They have had to defend themselves against nationalistic, anti-Russian government in Kiev, which has waged war on them, put them under blockade in an attempt of forced ukrainization.”
Russian leaders have previously attempted to pin the blame for increased hostilities in the area on NATO, a claim which international observers have refuted.
Mr Filatov repeated this argument, claiming NATO and the United States are working together with “the strategic aim to create ‘anti-Russia’ on our border.”
He said: “Now that the Eastern Ukraine is voting in the referenda to retain their way of life and to join Russia, Taoiseach is calling it a “sham”.”
The international community has indicated these votes are considered to be similar to a disputed 2014 referendum in Crimea which led to Russia annexing this region of Ukraine shortly afterwards.
Nato Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg has also described the votes as a "sham".
He told CNN: “But these votes have no legitimacy and of course they don't change anything. This continues to be a war of aggression by Russia against Ukraine.”