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In a dramatic escalation of East-West tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces to be put on high alert in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading Nato powers.
The order to put Russia’s nuclear weapons in an increased state of readiness for launch raised fears that the crisis could boil over into nuclear warfare, whether by design or miscalculation.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said Ireland will not contribute financially to the provision of lethal weapons by the EU to Ukraine.
It came as Ukraine’s health ministry said that 352 civilians, including 14 children have been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.
European Foreign ministers agreed in Brussels to close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund weapons purchases to Ukraine and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets
However, following the meeting, a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson told the Irish Examiner: “The EU Foreign Affairs Council will approve a package of assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces consisting of both lethal and non-lethal military equipment.
The latter component will include supplies such as personal protective equipment, medical kits and fuel.
The department made clear that in line with the commitment in the Programme for Government, Ireland will constructively abstain from the lethal equipment elements and will not contribute financially to this aspect.
“Instead, we will provide a corresponding contribution to the provision of non-lethal support.
“Our understanding is that a number of Member States, including Austria and Malta, are likely to take the same approach,” the statement said.
Earlier on Sunday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced that the EU would close its airspace to Russian airlines while also funding supplies of weapons to Ukraine.
In addition, as part of the sanctions announced in response to Russia’s invasion, there will be a ban on some pro-Kremlin media outlets, she said.
1,684 people, including 116 children wounded
According to Reuters, Ukraine’s health ministry said on Sunday that 352 civilians, including 14 children, had been killed since the beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
It also said that 1,684 people, including 116 children, had been wounded.
On Sunday, satellite imagery showed a large deployment of Russian ground forces including tanks moving in the direction of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv from approximately 64 km away, a private US company said.
The images released by Maxar Technologies Inc showed a deployment comprised of hundreds of military vehicles extending more than 5 km, Maxar said.
Ukraine to hold talks with Russia at Belarus border
The office of Ukraine’s president said a delegation will meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s troops draw closer to Kyiv.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said on the Telegram messaging app that the two sides would meet at an unspecified location on the Belarusian border and did not give a precise time for the meeting.
Minister Simon Coveney tweeted: “Let’s hope this