Ukraine

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:59 pm on 30th April 2008.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Party Chair, Liberal Democrats 2:59 pm, 30th April 2008

I unreservedly join in that tribute. We all have contacts with missions, high commissions and embassies from all over the world. The team at the Ukrainian embassy, both at present and under the previous ambassador, have been absolutely excellent at ensuring that they sustain good relations. They are here to support and brief us. There are not many occasions when one appears at an event without suddenly discovering that at one's shoulder is somebody from the Ukrainian embassy, wanting to ensure that we have not forgotten that they are around and that they deserve to be taken seriously. That is exactly how missions should work.

Other than at school, from maps and so on, I guess that I was first aware of Ukraine's importance when I became a Member of Parliament and there was a discussion about whether we should have a memorial in Southwark to the people of the Soviet Union who were killed in the last world war. A memorial was erected, and it stands today in Geraldine Mary Harmsworth park, just by the Imperial War museum. It reminds anybody who goes there that 20 million people died in the countries of the former Soviet Union. We remember that every year in May and on other occasions. When there are remembrance services at that memorial, among those laying wreaths are people doing so on behalf of Ukraine. The people of Ukraine played a hugely important part in the liberation army, and they have played a major part in peacekeeping roles throughout the world since. Tens of thousands of people from Ukraine's forces have contributed, and we need to remember that. They do their bit for world peace, and have done so for the past 50 years.

A second topical allusion is that we stand about halfway between one satisfactory semi-final of the European champions cup—when Manchester United fantastically and mercifully got the goal that took them through to the final—and another semi-final that guarantees an English team going through, with Chelsea and Liverpool playing for a place in the final in Moscow next month. Although no UK team will play in the European championship finals this year, for reasons that I shall not go into, there will be another opportunity in four years' time, when the championships will be in Ukraine and Poland. I sincerely hope that at least one UK team, if not two, three or four, will be there.