There can be “no impunity” for atrocities committed in Ukraine by Russian forces, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said, after mass graves and bodies littered on streets were found in Ukraine.
The discoveries were made as Ukrainian soldiers retook the suburbs of the capital, Kyiv, and Russian forces retreated.
In the town of Bucha, 37km northwest of Kyiv, the mayor said 300 people were killed. Reuters journalists saw bodies lying in the streets there, and the hands and feet of multiple corpses poking out of a still-open grave at a church ground.
In a tweet posted on Sunday afternoon, Simon Coveney said there were “shocking scenes of atrocities in Ukraine by Russian forces” and they must be “fully documented and pursued by an international court”.
“There can be no impunity for crimes like these,” he said, adding that the international community has a “duty to demand accountability”.
Mr Coveney’s comments echoed that of European Union officials, including Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs, and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, who said: “An independent investigation is urgently needed. Perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable.”
Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said Ireland would use its embassy in Moscow to “express our outrage” at the reports.
However, he said closing the Irish embassy in Moscow and severing diplomatic links with Russia would not serve anyone’s purposes.
Appalled by reports of unspeakable horrors in areas from which Russia is withdrawing.
An independent investigation is urgently needed.
Perpetrators of war crimes will be held accountable.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen)
April 3, 2022
The reports from Ukraine, he said, were “horrific” and showed “that we have to do everything we can to try and help stop this war in whatever way we can”.
Asked on Newstalk’s On The Record programme if it did more harm than good to maintain relations with Russia, he said: “I don’t think any country has completely withdrawn those relationships. Everyone is making that assessment and keeping their embassies open.”
Mr Ryan said there must be a sustained emphasis on switching energy systems away from reliance on Russian fuel imports, which he said is costing the EU half a billion euro a day.
He would not be drawn on the specific reasons behind why Ireland had expelled four Russian diplomats last week, saying he had not been specifically briefed by the security services.
But he said the Taoiseach had, and the Government had taken the decision to expel the diplomats in the wake of those briefings.
Irish business in Russia
Elsewhere, Irish companies doing business in Russia were facing renewed pressure to pull out of the country. Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Ukrainian MP Lesia Vasylenko said the management and customers of the companies involved should avoid being associated with “anything that is sponsoring Russia’s aggression”.
She said she was unconvinced by arguments that these companies were producing food products or medicines essential for ordinary people, saying: “I’m sorry [but] Russia is a huge country with a huge budget, they have their own companies, which are producing medical drugs, which are producing foods.”
She said: “Please don’t follow in Putin’s footsteps with his propaganda and his lies, and don’t be making bloody money.”
The Kerry Group on Sunday said it would donate any profits arising from its Russian operations to aid in Ukraine, but Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher – who owns shares in the Kerry Group – raised concerns.
Mr Kelleher wrote on Friday to the company’s chief executive, Edmund Scanlon.
He told RTÉ that their continuing trade and business in Russia legitimises “things in terms of Putin [and] the Russian regime”. He said the firm should “shutter or suspend” its activities in Russia and Belarus as it was a publicly traded company and had obligations.
He said there was a responsibility on companies and on the State to sever links with Russia “while we have a war criminal killing innocent civilians on the streets of Ukraine”.
Mr Kelleher said the Aughnish Alumina plant – which is part-owned by oligarch Oleg Deripaska – was not the subject of sanctions yet. He said if Mr Deripaska was subject to sanctions there could be an opportunity for the Irish Government or the European Union to take a role in the part of the company owned by the oligarch, to ensure the ongoing operation of the company, which is in his Ireland South constituency.
Smurfit Kappa, concrete company CRH and other Irish companies have closed down Russian operations. Kingspan, the building materials group, has said it is “determined to reach the right decision in the near future in relation to our business in Russia, which comprises less than 1 per cent of our global operations”.