UK Foreign Secretary William Hague made a statement in Parliament on Tuesday on recent events in Ukraine and during which he called on Russia to “turn back from the brink”. 

Mr Hague updated the House on the situation on the ground, the diplomatic work going on to reduce tensions, the decisions made at the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels on Monday, and the approach that the UK Government will continue to pursue over the coming weeks. 

He confirmed that in addition contributing £429,000 towards the first round of the Presidential election, which will take place on 25 May, the UK will also be sending 100 observers and has also contributed £1 million in funding so far to the special monitoring mission. 

The Foreign Secretary said that “a constant barrage of propaganda by the Russian media, and a steadily mounting death toll, are contributing to an atmosphere of fear, uncertainty and division”. 

“So-called pro-Russian separatists, led by people who by their training, equipment and behavior give every appearance of sometimes being Russian special forces, have continued to seize and occupy Government buildings in the south and east of Ukraine, using many of the same tactics that were deployed in Crimea. We have seen intimidation of journalists, abductions and murders. Missiles have been used to destroy at least four Ukrainian military helicopters, giving the lie to Russia’s claim that these are the actions of spontaneously organised local protestors, rather than well-trained, well-equipped professionals”. 

The Foreign Secretary added that: “this weekend, separatist groups staged sham “referendums” on self-rule in parts of Donetsk and Luhansk. Those polls were marked by blatant fraud, including multiple voting, no proper voting lists, and threats and intimidation against Ukrainians standing up for the unity of their country. The referendums met no basic standards of objectivity, transparency and fairness, and they have no credibility whatsoever. We will not recognise those or any other attempts to undermine the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea”. 

He reiterated that the UK has led the call “for the urgent imposition of EU sanctions targeting individuals suspected of misappropriating funds from the Ukrainian state and we hosted the Ukraine Asset Recovery Forum two weeks ago in London, with the United States and Ukraine, in order to co-ordinate this work”. 

Preparations for wider economic and trade sanctions are at an advanced stage and these will be applied subject to the “attitudes and behaviour” of Russia and its “willingness to exercise its influence over illegal armed groups in parts of eastern Ukraine” in advance of the forthcoming Presidential elections. 

“The doors of diplomacy remain open”, he continued. “It is in the interests of all concerned to seize these opportunities to reduce tensions. It is manifestly in the interests of the people of Ukraine, including in Donetsk and Luhansk, where there is a danger of the violence growing even worse and many more lives being lost. It is in the interests of Russia, because some events have already moved beyond its control, and because the long-term economic and political costs to Russia of an escalating crisis will be very serious”. 

The Foreign Affairs Council, Mr Hague added, has called on Russia to take effective steps to fulfil its Geneva commitments and has demanded that it moves its troops away from the Ukrainian border. Despite President Putin’s assurances of last week, “we have seen no evidence that Russia has reduced the huge number of its troops stationed just miles from Ukraine, and in fact Moscow continues to encourage the actions of separatists, including through the state-controlled media”. 

Mr Hague also confirmed that European Foreign Ministers had agreed “that the EU will prepare a possible civilian mission in Ukraine, to support capacity building in the fields of rule of law, and judicial and police reform”. They also maintained their “firm commitment to sign the remaining provisions of the association agreement with Ukraine, including the deep and comprehensive free trade area, as soon as possible after the presidential elections”. 

“There is now a fresh opening for Russia, and anyone else fostering violence and tension, to turn back from the brink. The coming days will demonstrate whether they are going to take it”. 


Ukrayinska Dumka


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