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Thursday, August 11, 2022

President Michael D Higgins issues statement on Ukraine but does not mention wife’s letter

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins has issued a statement condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine but making no reference to a controversial letter written by his wife Sabina.

t follows days of mounting pressure over the letter from Sabina Higgins which was published in the Irish Times, and on the President’s official website but later removed.

The letter suggested Russia and Ukraine should agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.

The statement from the President today said: “The record shows President Higgins has been unequivocal in his condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine from his original statement on 1 March.

“He has repeatedly condemned what he has described as the illegal,- immoral and unjustifiable Russian invasion of Ukraine. He has called for an immediate Russian withdrawal and end to the violence.”

It said that Mr Higgins has stressed the importance of using every available “chink of diplomacy”.

However the statement did not make any explicit reference to the letter by Sabina Higgins which provoked condemnation from the Ukrainian community as well as political criticism.

She said fighting would go on until the world “persuades President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations”.

The letter has been criticised by a former senior adviser to Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry.

“What Sabina Higgins said last week was ill-informed and naïve,” Cormac Smith told the Irish Independent.

Mr Smith said: “Russia invaded a peaceful and democratic country with absolutely no provocation and has since February murdered, tortured and raped thousands of innocent Ukrainians.”

Yesterday, Mr and Mrs Higgins attended the opening of the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann – but did not address the controversy.

Mr Higgins made a speech opening the event, but did not speak to reporters.

Kateryna Yushchenko, a former First Lady of Ukraine, suggested at the weekend that Mrs Higgins should not intervene in something she knows little about.

She said on Twitter: “I recommend, Mrs Higgins, not weighing in on something you obviously know nothing about.

“As we in Ukraine will not tell your country what to do in your relations with England and Northern Ireland.”

Ukraine’s ambassador to Ireland Larysa Gerasko said she did not believe the letter was the official position of the President of Ireland.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry in Kyiv told the Irish Independent it was monitoring the issue closely, but it was up the ambassador to comment.

Ms Gerasko declined to comment further last night.

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