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Zelensky thanks Ireland for its support as he meets Taoiseach in Kyiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets Taoiseach Micheal Martin ahead of a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy greets Taoiseach Micheal Martin ahead of a joint press conference at the Ukrainian Government Building in Kyiv, Ukraine, as the premier visits Ukraine to reiterate Irish solidarity with the Ukrainian authorities in the face of the Russian invasion. Picture date: Wednesday July 6, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has thanked Ireland for its support amid the Russian invasion as he held talks with the Taoiseach in Kyiv.

Micheal Martin restated Irish solidarity with the people of Ukraine as he met Mr Zelensky in the war-torn capital on Wednesday.

Earlier, the Irish premier witnessed the devastation inflicted by invading Russian forces as he visited conflict-scarred suburbs of Kyiv that have borne the brunt of the offensive on the city.

The tour included a sombre visit to the site of a mass grave in the grounds of a church in Bucha.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin visit to Ukraine
Micheal Martin viewing the damage to buildings in the city of Irpin (Niall Carson/PA)

After holding a bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach, Mr Zelensky said he is grateful for Ireland’s support in the war and for the country’s aspirations to join the European Union.

He also expressed his gratitude for providing refuge for people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

“We are very grateful and we will remember this always as matter of principle, and the gesture of solidarity towards our people,” Mr Zelensky said during a joint press conference with Mr Martin.

“Our Irish friends fully appreciate the threats created by this Russia aggression against Ukraine and aggression against the whole democratic world.

“We (Mr Martin) discussed our joint responses to the energy crisis and preparation of the new sanctions package against the Russia.

“Ukraine appreciates everything that Ireland has done and for Russia to feel the real price of their terrorist attacks.”

Mr Martin thanked Mr Zelensky for his “very warm welcome”.

“I want to thank you for your remarkable leadership which is greatly admired in Ireland,” the Taoiseach added.

“I’m here to express Ireland’s solidarity with the Government and people of Ukraine. We admire you and we are with you.

“Russia’s brutal war against this beautiful democratic country is a gross violation of international law.

“It is an afront to everything that Ireland stands for, it cannot and will not be allowed to stand.”

Mr Martin said he witnessed first hand the “horrific reality of war” on the people of Ukraine.

“The use of terror against and the deliberate targeting of civilian populations are war crimes,” he added.

“Those responsible, those carrying out these actions and those directing them will be held fully accountable and there will be no hiding places.

“I am here to pay tribute to President Zelensky and his government on achieving European Union candidate status.

“I have always made clear from the outset our strong view that Ukraine belongs to the EU, the values that people are fighting and dying for today are European values.

“It was the commitment and hard work of the government in Kyiv that convinced the European Commission to come forward with a positive recommendation so quickly.

“It is a richly deserved outcome.”

He added: “A war intended to crush and fragment a people, has instead made you stronger, more united, more convinced of your identity and place in the world, your language, your culture, your European vocation.

“The world has been humbled by the strength and resilience of the people of Ukraine.”

Ireland has taken in more than 36,000 Ukrainian refugees since Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine at the end of February.

The Irish government has given 20 million euro in humanitarian support and assistance to the country, as well as health equipment and medical donations worth more than 4.5 million euro.

Mr Martin used his visit to restate Ireland’s full backing for continuing sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership, as well as Ireland’s commitment to work with the EU on the reconstruction of Ukraine.

As well as his bilateral meeting with President Zelensky, the Taoiseach also held talks with Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

“The people of Ireland stand with Ukraine and its people in the face of Russia’s immoral and unprovoked war of terror,” said Mr Martin.

The Irish leader said the bombardment and attacks on civilians were “nothing short of war crimes” as he insisted Russia must be held accountable.

“The spirit and resolve of the Ukrainian people has inspired us all, and Ireland will provide every support for Ukraine’s path to full EU membership, and continue to welcome and support civilians fleeing this war,” he added.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin visit to Ukraine
The Taoiseach views an exhibition of photographs depicting the mass grave in Bucha (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Martin’s day-long itinerary in the war-torn city began with a trip to Borodyanka – a town on the outskirts of Kyiv that has suffered widespread damage under Russian shelling.

On the 30-minute drive from the railway station, the Taoiseach passed Hostomel airport, where his convoy stopped to observe a demolished bridge.

The delegation also drove past bombed-out warehouses, shopping centres and petrol stations.

The scale of Ukrainian efforts to defend their capital was evident, with numerous bunkers and fortifications visible on the journey.

In Borodyanka, Mr Martin met the town’s mayor and viewed apartment blocks gutted by fire during the Russian bombardment.

From there, Mr Martin visited the site of a mass grave in Bucha.

The grave was discovered in the grounds of the church of St Andrew.

A local cleric showed Mr Martin the site and an associated exhibition of graphic photographs of exhumed bodies and pictures of civilians left dead on the streets of the suburb when Russian forces retreated.

The Irish delegation then travelled to nearby Irpin where the Taoiseach was shown badly-damaged apartment blocks that had been hit by Russian shells.

Afterwards, Mr Martin said: “It is difficult to comprehend the devastation and inhumanity of Russia’s attacks on Irpin, Borodyanka and Bucha.

“(It is) clear how important it is for women and children to get to Ireland to escape trauma and brutality. We stand with Ukraine.”

Taoiseach Micheal Martin visit to Ukraine
Taoiseach Micheal Martin views bomb-damaged Russian military vehicles at the National Museum of the History of Ukraine (Niall Carson/PA)

Prior to the talks with the Ukrainian president, Micheal Martin visited a museum in Kyiv that is exhibiting items from the war, including damaged Russian military vehicles and missile fragments.

He placed a teddy bear at a nearby memorial to the children killed in the conflict so far.

Mr Martin then visited a memorial commemorating the lives lost in the Holodomor famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s.

The Taoiseach placed a wreath at the site and later lit a candle in an underground part of the memorial.

Mr Martin’s trip came two weeks after President Zelensky invited him to visit Ukraine.

It is the first visit by a Taoiseach to the eastern European country.

On Monday, President Putin declared victory in seizing the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk, with his troops escalating their offensive in neighbouring Donetsk.

Mr Martin has warned previously that the Russian president appeared to be leveraging its natural gas supplies to exert maximum pressure on Europe ahead of the winter period.

The Taoiseach has also been a vocal advocate for Ukraine’s fast-tracked membership of the EU.

In April, fellow cabinet minister Simon Coveney became the first foreign minister of the UN Security Council to visit Kyiv, and met Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba and defence minister Oleksii Reznikov.