Irish political leaders have been joining international condemnation of a Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.
Russian ground assaults have been launched from the north, east and south of the country early Thursday morning. Cruise missile strike have been heard falling on the capital city, Kyiv, where some residents have already taken refuge in air-raid shelters and the subway.
Although widely predicted, the scale of the military operation shocked political leaders. Putin declared war during a televised address early on Thursday morning, describing the move as a response to threats from Ukraine.
He said he had launched the attack to “defend our people” and to “demilitarise and de-nazify Ukraine”.
He also warned anyone who would “consider interfering” from the outside: “if you do, you will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.”
The Russian government said it had targeted military infrastructure, air defence and air forces with “high-precision weapons”, but not civilian targets.
US President Joe Biden condemned the attack as “unprovoked and unjustified” and said he supported a call by the Ukrainian government for leaders of the world “to speak out clearly against President Putin’s flagrant aggression, and to stand with the people of Ukraine”.
President Biden says he will be meeting with G7 leaders on Thursday, and the US and allies “will be imposing severe sanctions” on Russia.
“We will continue to provide support and assistance to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he said.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said her thoughts were with the people of Ukraine “in these dark hours” and that Russia would be held accountable for its actions.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused Putin of choosing “a path of bloodshed and destruction” with his attack, and that its allies would respond “decisively”.
The Dublin government had been making plans to cope with the fallout from the situation, with Taoiseach Micheal Martin saying “we have seen nothing like this since World War 2”.
“It will have an impact on global stability, economies and also inflation. We hope diplomacy can win out,” he said.
Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD warned of “the potential for horrific loss of life”.
Speaking hours before the invasion got underway, she backed sanctions against Russia, but also raised concern that these sanctions would also impact on people in Ireland, particularly increasing the cost of energy.
“Significant, targeted economic sanctions must be imposed on Russia. They must be directed not only at the Russian government, but at their oligarchs living in luxury in European capitals,” she said.
“However, sanctions alone will not resolve this crisis and help avoid a horrible conflict. We need to see a redoubling of diplomacy to ensure a peaceful resolution.
“Ireland, through our military neutrality and our place on the UN Security Council, is uniquely placed in Europe to put the case for an intensification in dialogue to overcome this point of conflict and find a peaceful way forward. That should be the focus of the government in the coming days.”