British minister for Europe speaks out on the crisis in Ukraine
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British minister for Europe speaks out on the crisis in Ukraine

The British Minister for Europe says Ukraine has been” dismembered” because Russia thinks it has the “right to intervene anywhere it chooses.” David Lidington, who was speaking in Brussels, by the current crisis in Ukraine was the result of an “illegal annexation of Crimea.

“And it is now in a state of smouldering instability, thanks to the Kremlin’s puppet uprising in the Donbas,” he declared.

He was speaking at an event to discuss the Ukrainian situation hosted on Tuesday by Carnegie Europe in Brussels.

The crisis, he said, was being played out “against the background of a doctrine laid down in Moscow that Russia has the right to intervene anywhere it chooses if it can claim that that intervention is in support of Russian speakers or Russian citizens.

“And we can count the cost of the Kremlin’s actions in the straightforward terms of human lives. Not just the hundreds who lost their lives fighting for freedom in Euromaidan, nor the 298 innocent people downed in MH17.

“But now more than 5,000 deaths in Ukraine. Tens of thousands injured. And more than one and a half million people forced to take refuge in other parts of Ukraine or in neighbouring countries.”

Lidington went to say that the situation is getting worse.

“The level of violence is escalating, reaching levels not seen since last September. Just a few weeks ago, 30 civilians killed in Mariupol, by a Russian missile fired by separatists.

“The separatists have destroyed Donetsk airport. They are threatening Debaltseve. We believe they have occupied more than 500 square kilometres of additional Ukrainian land since last September.

“Now that is a tragedy. But it is not some accidental sequence of events. It is a deliberate, calculated policy of the Kremlin.”

He said the UK will continue to supply non-lethal equipment to Ukraine, including body armour.

As for lethal weapons, no decision has been made so far, but this position can be reviewed if the situation changes, he said. “We would not just stand by and see Ukrainian forces completely collapse,” the British minister stressed.

“Russia is responsible for undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty, sending in wave after wave of so called ‘humanitarian convoys’, without the agreement of Ukraine’s legitimate government.

“And Russia is responsible for blocking a diplomatic solution. The commitments President Putin made under the Minsk agreement have never been further from the reality of Russia’s actions on the ground.

“And it is that contrast between the words spoken in diplomatic exchanges and the activity on the ground in eastern Ukraine that has led, sadly, to deeper levels of mistrust in Europe and in the United Sates about the intentions of the Russian government.

He added, “There can be, in the end, no military solution to the crisis.”

He said Ukraine President Poroshenko had been “clear throughout that he wants peace, not war.”

“So we have called on all parties to engage constructively with the legitimate, democratic Government of Ukraine. With two objectives: to de-escalate tensions, and to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.”

The UK, he told the packed audience, “welcomes the intensive efforts by our German and French colleagues in recent days to engage President Putin. “

Lidington went on, “The UK will continue to work with our European colleagues to help resolve the crisis and take an active part in the diplomatic process.”

By Martin Banks