Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney has said the European Union needs to take a firm and united position against Russian aggression and that support for Ukraine needs to be unambiguous.

Mr Coveney was speaking from Helsinki following discussions with his Finnish counterpart Pekka Haavisto.

Asked about comments from French President Emmanuel Macron, who said it was important not to "humiliate Russia", Mr Coveney said it is vital that the EU is "firm and clear" with what is right and what is wrong.

"I think to be fair to President Macron he is trying to ensure that there is an avenue open for dialogue that could at some point in the future lead to a ceasefire and to an end to the killing," Mr Coveney said.

"I think we all have an obligation to think about that, but I think we all have an obligation to ensure that we are very firm and clear in terms of the wrongs and the rights in this conflict.

"Of course there needs to be a thought process around how we get to an end to this war, but I think in the meantime, we need to be unambiguous in terms of our support for Ukraine, while the war continues."

Mr Coveney said his discussions with his Finnish counterpart had been dominated by the situation in Ukraine and the continuing "illegal war", which he said was causing "extraordinary human suffering".

"I don't think that any of us thought before this war began that we would see a war of this scale unfold on the continent of Europe the way that it has, again," he said.

Commenting on the brutality with which the war was being conducted he added that, in terms of the "terrorisation of civilian populations, the use of sexual violence in this war has been quite horrifying".

Minister Haavisto agreed the rules of war had been broken in Ukraine and that there had been several cases where the rules of the Geneva convention, there to protect civilians and prisoners of war, had been broken.

Mr Coveney will also meet Sweden's Foreign Minister Ann Linde.

Last month, the two nations applied for NATO membership amid security concerns following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Both countries face objections from Turkey.

As her country applies for NATO membership, Ms Linde said it was important that the alliance continued to protect its open-door policy.

During his trip, Minister Coveney will visit the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats in Helsinki, which was first established in 2017, with support from NATO and the EU.

Finland shares a 1,300km border with Russia and during World War II fought two wars against the Soviet Union, which cost it a tenth of its territory. It is estimated that around 100,000 Finns were killed.