The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence has promised to deliver a clear message to the UN Security Council in New York next Thursday, that Russia must be held accountable for its aggression inside Ukraine.

Speaking at the end of his one-day visit to the Black Sea port city of Odesa in Ukraine last night, Simon Coveney said the International Criminal Court does not currently have the mandate to stand up to what is happening in Ukraine, which he said was the aggressive invasion of one country by another.

"Next week at the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly in New York, will be a perfect opportunity for Ukraine and many other countries who support you, to reinforce that message that aggressively attacking your neighbour, for whatever justification you put in place, is a breach of international law and cannot go unanswered in terms of accountability."

He said regardless of the scale and size of the countries involved, this was something that the international community had to stand up to, to ensure there is accountability.

Meeting his Ukrainian counterpart, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, he said that Ireland would be a solid and reliable partner for Ukraine, until the conflict is over, and would also be there to help Ukraine rebuild.

"The bravery and courage you are showing at the moment to protect your own sovereignty, your own people, your own country is in many ways a fight for the value system that keeps the European Union intact," he said.

In New York next week, Mr Coveney will deliver an update on the operation of the Black Sea Grain Initiative which was brokered by the UN and Turkey over the summer, for just a 120-day period.

Mr Coveney and Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Gabrielius Lansbergis, were in the besieged port of Odesa to witness for themselves a ship being loaded with grain, but this part of the visit was cut short when an air-raid siren rang out across the port.

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country and the developing world had been "cheated" by the UN-brokered export deal and he vowed to look to revise its terms after he said grain exports were not going to the world's poorest countries, as originally intended.

In a direct answer to Mr Putin's criticism, Mr Coveney said it was important to deal in facts. He said he had personally witnessed the loading of a Panama-registered ship being loaded with 46,000 tonnes of grain bound for Bangladesh.

"The stats that I have seen, of course show that some grain is going to the EU, that's true, but there is also a lot of grain going to other parts of the world, including on ships that have been chartered by the UN World Food Programme, which is about humanitarian assistance, going to the poorest of the poor."


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He said so far over 3 million tonnes of grain had left the port under the carefully negotiated initiative, adding that any grain that goes to the EU, was also helping to stabilise food prices.

Mr Coveney said Ireland continued to be supportive of Ukraine's application to join the EU.

"We will be there also to help Ukraine on a path to a certain, full EU membership at some point in the future, which in my view is a future that can inspire many Ukrainians who are fighting today in terms of the kind of future they want for their families and children.

"One of freedom, stability, peace and prosperity, the ability to travel and get educated right across this continent. That’s what the prize of EU membership can and will be for the future."

He said he looked forward to returning to the city of Odesa in more peaceful times.

Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, also confirmed yesterday that the UN had started talks on reopening an ammonia pipeline from Russia to the Black Sea.

"Ukraine did not initiate these talks; this is an initiative from the UN", he said, adding that Ukraine would not approve any deal that contradicted its national security interests.

The pipeline is designed to pump up to 2.5 million tonnes of ammonia per year, which can be used as a fertiliser for crops.

It would come from Russia’s Volga region to the Black Sea port of Pivdennyi near Odesa.

It was shut down after Russia sent its troops into Ukraine on 24 February. Part of the pipeline runs through the Mykolaiv region in Ukraine where there is regular shelling, although to date it has avoided any damage.

Ukraine and Russia are both major global grain and fertiliser exporters and the UN has said that such an agreement is needed to tackle a global food crisis.