The Russian strongman is reported to be sending warships within Ireland’s maritime economic zone – around 240km off the southwest cost of Ireland. It comes at a time when Russia has sparked fears of all out war with an invasion of Ukraine.
An Irish politician branded the move as “deeply concerning” while Irish Defence Forces Reservist Robert Gilbey noted the area identified by Russia was “ideal for protecting a submarine”.
He also pointed to the time when a “suspicious Russian trawler” was spotted 170nm away.
Mr Gilbey posted on Twitter: “A live fire Russian naval exercise has been scheduled inside the Irish EEZ, at a time when tensions on Russian military build ups relative to Ukraine are high.
“Now, disclaimer, I am in no way a naval or ASW authority and will bow to the experience of others. First question. Why that location?
“Let’s explore the terrain. The Porcupine Seabright. A deep, enclosed area, with only a western access point. Ideal for protecting a submarine?
“It certainly helps if that western access point has an armed naval blocking force protecting it.
“What’s interesting is that this exercise box is 170 nautical miles off the south coast of Ireland.
“Incidentally, so was a suspicious Russian trawler suspected of deploying submersibles back in July 2021 170nm away.
“Could that previous event have been sub-surface reconnaissance?
“Others may recall that the Russians flew their ASW TU-142 Bears over that location in March 2020 too.
“Perhaps that was a sub surface signal mapping exercise? Testing reactions, or lack there of?
“There’s a lot to suggest battlespace preparation here.”
Teachta Dála of Ireland Sorca Clarke expressed her “deep concern” telling UK defence journal: “I am deeply concerned that Russia is to conduct a missile test off the coast of Co Cork in the first week of February.
“Our own Defence Forces staffing levels have been impacted by reducing numbers over the last number of years and it is an area of concern repeatedly highlighted by representative bodies.”
Russia has massed tens of thousands of troops near Ukraine’s borders but denies planning to invade the former Soviet republic.
In response Western allies stepped up warnings that Russia will pay a heavy price if the estimated 100,000 troops massed on the border launch any kind of incursion into Ukraine.
It comes as Britain accused the Kremlin of seeking to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine, and said Russian intelligence officers had been in contact with a number of former Ukrainian politicians as part of plans for an invasion.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the Government had information the Russian government was considering former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevhen Murayev as a potential candidate to head a pro-Russian leadership.
She posted on Twitter: ”We will not tolerate Kremlin plot to install pro-Russian leadership in Ukraine.
“The Kremlin knows a military incursion would be a massive strategic mistake & the UK and our partners would impose a severe cost on Russia.”
Mr Murayev has since derided British allegations and revealed he was considering legal action.
He said: ”This morning I already read in all the news publications this conspiracy theory: absolutely unproven, absolutely unfounded.”
Mr Murayev denied having any contact with Russian intelligence officers and dismissed the idea that he could be in league with the Kremlin as “stupid”, given he was placed under Russian sanctions in 2018.
He said: “Probably in the UK it was somehow forgotten or missed, or simply not even appreciated,” adding that the allegations made him doubt the quality of UK intelligence work.