RTÉ's Six One News was dominated by coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. News anchor David McCullagh spoke to Russia’s Ambassador to Ireland, Yuriy Filatov, and has been praised for his questioning of the ongoing conflict.
McCullagh was quick off the mark raising the problems facing Ukrainians, with reports suggesting dozens of civilians have lost their lives due to Russian intervention.
The exchange started on a fiery note, with the Russian Ambassador ignoring McCullagh's reference to an Amnesty International's report that civilian areas had been targeted:
Filatov: If you want to make a statement, you are free to do that.
McCullagh: I'm quoting Amnesty International sir.
Filatov: Well, it doesn't matter. Will you let me explain some basic facts?
McCullagh: Please, try your best.
Filatov went on to try and justify Russia's 'special operation' as a response to the war in the Donbas region of Ukraine, but McCullagh didn't buy his words.
David McCullagh interview with Russian ambassador to Ireland
— RTÉ News (@rtenews) February 25, 2022
"I'm sorry ambassador but that war was started by Russia, it was fermented by Russia, it was continued by Russia. Russia has been arming the separatists in those areas you mention," he said.
"We did not. That has been started by the government which came to power in 2014, in February. The only reason was that the people in the republics in the region at that time. They simply rejected, that they have not accepted the new regime."
McCullagh responded. "Ambassador, you're giving us the Russian version of events. Why should our viewers believe the Russian version of events when Russia has been misleading us in recent weeks?"
"I don't think we have been misleading anyone," Filatov said in response.
Last week, Filatov appeared on RTÉ's Prime Time coverage and dismissed claims that there was going to be a Russian invasion of Ukraine, calling it 'ludicrous'.
The Ambassador passed it off as a move by the United States to 'inflate tension.' "Now either you did not know what was going on or you were lying, sir. Which was it?" McCullagh asked.
"No, I did not. I talked about some things as well. It's not our choice. The war or the military option is not our choice," Filatov answered.
"But sir, your forces have invaded a sovereign nation. It absolutely was your choice."
McCullagh then grilled Filatov again for trying to justify the invasion off the back of the conflict in Donbas, as Filatov echoed Putin's words by calling it a 'special operation.'
This was the closing exchange between the two:
David McCullagh: By special operation sir, you mean the invasion of a sovereign nation?
Filatov: The only aim of the operation is to neutralise the ability of the Ukrainian military. To inflict any more suffering on Donbas. Ukrainians should not be afraid of that.
David McCullagh: Mr Ambassador, Ukrainians are being killed by your forces. How can they not be afraid?
Filatov: Well, simply because they are not the target of this operation.
David McCullagh: There are documented cases of Ukrainian civilian targets being hit by Russian munitions.
Filatov: I have no such proof. We are not aimed at them.
McCullagh: Why should our government entertain your presence here when you're acting as an apologist for slaughter?
Filatov: It is a good question. You might ask your government. It's up to them. I can leave any time.
It then ended with David McCullagh cutting Filatov off, saying 'ambassador for Russia to Ireland for the moment at least.' He has been widely praised on social media for his line of questioning.