THE UKRAINIAN ambassador to Ireland has called on Ireland and other members of the European Union to impose sanctions on Russia now, and to not wait until a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio's Morning Ireland, ambassador Larysa Gerasko said that her country expects a full invasion by Russia as over 100,000 Russian soldiers are currently stationed at the border.
"Unfortunately we have a sad situation along the border and we are expecting further Russian invasion," she said.
"Ukrainian military experts say it is still not enough to start full scale invasion but Russia continues to bring more troops, tanks and other military equipment close to the Ukrainian state border."
She also criticised Russia for spreading misinformation, launching cyber attacks and undermining the situation in Ukraine and Western Europe.
"The Kremlin is very resourceful and inventive," Ms Gerasko said. "Russia blackmails western Europe and the NATO alliance."
She said the planned upcoming naval exercises 240km of the southwest coast of Ireland is another example of such undermining.
She said it was Ukraine's sovereign right to join any alliance that it wished to, include NATO, and that it was the country's right to determine its future.
"We are increasing and developing our capabilities," she continued.
"Our partners' support is especially important at this critical moment. Our partners supply us with military support and I would underline that there will be no security in Europe without security in the Ukraine."
Ms Gerasko expressed her gratitude to the people of Ireland and to the government for its "unwavering support" of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"We call on the EU and our partners to impose more tough sanctions against Russia. We have to impose them now and not wait for invasion."
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has urged fishermen who plan to disrupt Russia's naval exercises off the coast of Ireland to not put themselves at risk.
Mr Varadkar said that the military exercises are happening outside Ireland’s territorial waters, leaving Ireland with no power to prevent them from happening.
"But we have made it very clear that these exercises are not welcome, particularly in the current context, when tensions are rising in relation to Ukraine,” Mr Varadkar added.
"That’s being communicated to them very strongly. There are no plans to send Irish troops to Ukraine, that hasn’t been discussed."
Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage Malcolm Noon TD has also said that he is "deeply concerned" about the military exercises.
"While we do not know the nature of these exercises, we do know that underwater sounds such as active military sonar can have devastating consequences for cetaceans including some of our rarest marine mammal species, notably the deep-diving and rarely-seen Blue whale, Sperm whale and beaked whales," he said.
He said he has written to both Simon Coveney and the Russian Ambassador to express these concerns.
Advice for people in Ireland has also been changed to avoid non-essential travel to Ukraine.