– This is extremely risky, says Patrick Murphy, head of the Irish fish producers.
The fishermen are now planning actions against the Russian warships, which in a few days will carry out sniping in the Celtic Sea. The exercise area is well outside Irish territorial waters, but within the Irish economic zone.
Winter fishing for blue whiting is now underway here. The fishermen are afraid that the shooting will harm the fish, and in addition prevent them from doing their job.
– What if the Russians planned to fire rockets on land in Ireland? What would that entail? We fishermen consider this sea area as ours. This is where our livelihood is, says Murphy to the trade magazine The Skipper.
According to the Irish Fisheries Organization, the area where the Russians are to practice is very vulnerable. Around 50 fishing boats operate in these waters at this time of year.
– As far as we have understood, they can not shoot sharply if there are fishing boats in the area. Together with shipowners and fishing skippers, we have therefore drawn up a plan where we will use the vessels from West Cork and Kerry to carry out a peaceful protest at the place where the Russians intend to practice, says Murphy.
Russia’s ambassador to Ireland denies that the exercise will affect life at sea and reacts strongly to the threat.
– Attempts to disrupt military exercises will be careless and irresponsible. It will endanger both fishermen and other seafarers, said Yuri Filatov during a press conference in Dublin this week.
But the fishermen are not deterred.
– We do not intend to block their ships, but we will definitely be able to get our point across. Now the government must help us, he says to the state broadcaster RTE.
– They will not get rid of us so easily.
High activity outside Norway
It was last week that the Russian defense leadership announced that they were sending more than 140 naval ships to sea to practice – in all sea areas bordering Russia.
Some of the ships, which are probably on their way to the areas around Ireland, have in recent days moved south along the Norwegian coast, and will now be west of Helgeland.
– There is high Russian military activity in the North now, but we would still say that it is within the normal range, says spokesman Ivar Moen at the Armed Forces’ operational headquarters to TV 2.
The Armed Forces follows the Russian warships with aircraft, vessels and other sensors, but according to Moen, the Russians have not done anything to prevent or provoke other traffic at sea.
– So far we have seen that they operate in a safe, professional and predictable way, says Moen.
The naval exercise comes at a time of great Russian military activity both in Belarus and on the border with Ukraine, where NATO fears that President Vladimir Putin will invade the neighboring country.
“Our forces will train to repel military threats, secure our lines of communication at sea and Russia’s maritime economic interests in the event of a crisis,” said the Russian Northern Fleet in a statement.
Several times in recent years, the Russians have practiced close to the Norwegian coast. However, it is unusual for them to operate as far south as neutral Ireland, which itself has a very small defense.
– The Russians can of course practice where they want in international sea areas, but that they do it at the EU’s western borders, on the Irish coast is something we do not welcome and do not like. Especially now in the coming weeks, says Foreign Minister Simon Coveney according to Sky News.
Ireland now wants help from the EU to stop the exercise.