Dozens of vehicles bearing Russian flags and decals took part in a convoy to Athlone to mark the 77th anniversary of ‘Victory Day’ when Nazi German forces were defeated.
ardaí followed the group’s movements as they traveled west on the M6.
Many cars had large flags and pictures of Russian figures. Some were stretched over the hoods of the cars, while flags were flown from the windows of others.
As they traveled en masse around 11am, they were followed by gardaí on motorbikes. The Irish Independent saw Gardaí instruct two motorcyclists to continue after they stopped on the side of the highway to film the procession.
Gardaí were also stationed on viaducts along the M6 motorway, observing the movement of traffic below.
The convoy was so long that it took nearly five minutes to pass a single point on the road near the town of Kilbeggan in Co Westmeath.
An official Russian ‘Victory Day’ rally scheduled to take place today at the Papal Cross in Phoenix Park was denied by the Office of Public Works (OPW) last week.
The rally was intended to commemorate the Russian victory over the Nazis during WW2 and the sacrifice of Russian soldiers during the war. It is a day celebrated by Russian communities around the world.
The OPW had requested a signed release form and event safety management plan, as well as relevant insurance coverage, and the event organizers were required to meet with the OPW and gardai, but all requirements were not met, and the event permission was denied.
Last month, Russian supporters in Ireland were criticized after an event in which vehicles bearing the ‘Z’ symbol drove along part of the M50 and towards Swords in North Dublin.
Ukrainians in Ireland at the time protested a ban on the use of the ‘Z’ symbol by Russian troops on military vehicles, comparing it to the swastika symbols used by Nazis.
Meanwhile, hundreds of members of the Ukrainian community in Ireland held a GPO peace march on O’Connell Street to St Stephen’s Green today.
“On this day, 77 years ago, the unconditional surrender of the Nazi German troops was signed, and people of the world felt joy. At last there was peace and a bright, bright future ahead,” Nick Koslov of the Ukraine Crisis Center said as he addressed the crowd.
He said Ukraine’s human and material losses during World War II were enormous, with between five and seven million Ukrainians killed and 700 cities and 28,000 villages destroyed.
“Under the rule of Stalin, Russia tried to usurp the great victory of the civilized world over fascism. Stalin removed from the list of decorations the name of the Ukrainian Lieutenant Alexei Berest, who was one of the first to raise the victory flag at the Reichstag in Berlin.”
“We are now living in challenging times. We do not know whether the new Fuehrer’s hand will not press the ‘nuclear button’. We start every day looking to our iPhones, smartphones and computers to check the news. We think of our precious Ukraine every minute. We are concerned about our soldiers defending our relatives and friends, our cultural heritage and the most important values – independence and freedom of our motherland,” he added.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Ireland, Gerasko Larysa, said war has come to Ukraine when they never expected it.
“Seventy-seven years ago we started saying ‘never again’ when commemorating the victims of World War II, but this (war) has come to our country again,” she said.
“We call on world leaders for increased support and for more defensive and offensive weapons to defeat our enemy. And we are calling for more financial support and tougher sanctions to be imposed on Russia,” Ms Larysa added.