THE GOVERNMENT has urged Irish citizens to leave Ukraine immediately amid the threat of a Russian invasion of the Eastern European country.
At least 100,000 Russian troops are within reach of Ukraine's borders, although Russia has dismissed claims it plans to attack to former Soviet Union country, reports the BBC.
However, a statement issued by Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday has called for Irish citizens to depart as soon as possible.
The United States, Britain, Japan and the Netherlands are among the other countries to have issued similar advice to their citizens in Ukraine.
The DFA statement read: "Following intensive consultations overnight and this morning with EU partners in Kyiv and Brussels, and with other partners, the Department of Foreign Affairs has upgraded travel advice for Ukraine.
"We advise against all travel to Ukraine and ask citizens currently in Ukraine to leave immediately by commercial means.
"The updated travel advice is at dfa.ie/travel.
"Any Irish citizens requiring emergency consular assistance should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs at +353 1 4082000."
The DFA added that the Irish Embassy in Kiev will remain open with reduced staff, with one of its aims being to assist Irish citizens involved in surrogacy programmes in Ukraine.
"In common with the Embassies of partner states, the Embassy of Ireland in Kyiv will remain open, with a small number of essential staff remaining," added the DFA.
"That situation will be kept under review.
"The Department has been in direct contact with all of those scheduled to travel to Ukraine for surrogacy purposes in recent days.
"The Department will continue to provide support to each of these individuals and families with advice relevant to their particular situation.
"We remain in ongoing contact at senior level with EU partners, as well as the UK and the US, regarding the wider political and security situation in and around Ukraine."
The invasion threat stems from Russia's concern that Ukraine, which shares borders with Europe and Russia, will join NATO.
It wants guarantees from the military alliance that Ukraine will not be admitted to the organisation.