ALL Russian spies based in Ireland could be expelled from the country in the coming days, the government has said.
It comes as Taoiseach Micheal Martin revealed there are no plans to expel Russian Ambassador Yury Filatov from Ireland due to concerns for the safety of Irish people living in Ukraine or Russia.
The government has come under heavy pressure to expel the Russian ambassador from Ireland with protests outside the embassy and a petition signed by dozens of politicians.
However, the Taoiseach today confirmed that the government has no intention of expelling Ambassador Filatov despite pressure from 37 Fianna Fail politicians.
More than 50 Irish citizens remain in war-torn Ukraine while hundreds of Irish live in Russia.
The Taoiseach said keeping communication channels open with Russia through embassies is necessary to help any Irish citizens still in Ukraine or Russia.
The Fianna Fail leader said any decision to send Russian diplomats home would be taken on a European basis.
Earlier, Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said that while the ambassador won’t be expelled, that doesn’t mean diplomats or “agents” won’t be expelled from Ireland.
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He said: “You always have to keep the lines of communication open in my view. Does that mean we won’t expel certain Russian diplomats or certain agents who are in Ireland who may not be diplomats in the next few days? No it doesn’t. We just might.
Asked if that meant there were Russian spies based in Ireland who could be expelled from the country, the Taoiseach replied: “In the diplomatic world there are people below the level of ambassador with various functions.
“We can assume and people have different perspectives in terms of definitive knowledge of any particular knowledge of a particular activity that is not necessarily there.
“But I think the fundamental point across Europe at the moment is that the diplomatic channels must remain open.”
“WE ARE ALL REALISTS”
Pressed on whether it would be fair to assume there are Russian spies based in Ireland, the Taoiseach said: “I won’t comment on that, but I think we’re all being realistic in the world. “
Concerns have previously been raised over the size of the Russian embassy in Dublin, with the government deciding to block an expansion of the facility in 2020.
There are fears that the Russian Embassy in Dublin is being used as a communications base for intelligence officers based across Europe.