Russian Annexation of Crimea

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of John Howell John Howell Conservative, Henley 9:30 am, 24th April 2019

I beg to move,

That this House
has considered the Russian annexation of Crimea.

[Geraint Davies in the Chair]

It was a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon, however briefly, and it is a great pleasure to serve under yours, Mr Davies. 18 March 2019 was the fifth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. It is worth stopping at this point to dwell on the fact that Russia has been allowed to annex Crimea for five years, to carry out military activities in the Donbass, and also to invade two enclaves of Georgia. As I said in my speech in this Chamber in July last year,

“we are dealing with a serial offender.”—[Official Report, 18 July 2018; Vol. 645, c. 102WH.]

I will first detail what happened five years ago, move on to the impact of the illegal annexation, then finally examine the current situation in the Azov sea.

On 20 February 2014, Russia’s “little green men”—military without insignia—started the occupation of the Crimean peninsula. That began the process of annexation, as soldiers wearing Russian combat fatigues and carrying Russian weapons began seizing important institutions in the peninsula. Russia initially denied that those were Russian soldiers, but later said that they were. As a result of that annexation, a range of sanctions was imposed on Russia by the EU, the US and allies, including economic sanctions such as restrictions on access to financial markets; an arms embargo; restrictions on the export of oil extraction technology; targeted sanctions against certain individuals; and diplomatic sanctions, including exclusion from the G8 and the suspension of voting rights in the Council of Europe. I will return to that last point towards the end of my speech.

The Foreign Secretary has said:

“I condemn the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol…five years ago. The UK will never recognise Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and we call on Russia to end their illegitimate control of the peninsula and their attempts to redraw the boundaries of Europe.”

Ambassador Jonathan Allen, who was the UK deputy permanent representative to the UN, has said:

“Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is not limited to the Donbas and Crimea—Russia seeks to undermine Ukraine at every opportunity…supplying the Russian-backed separatists with weapons and calling illegitimate elections—all in breach of the Minsk agreement.

Only this year, in a written answer in the other place, Lord Ahmad said:

“Sanctions imposed alongside our international partners, including the US, in 2014 have had a coordinated impact on Russia by increasing economic pressure to change its Ukraine policy and sending a clear, united message that Russian aggression in Ukraine will not be tolerated. This impact has been strengthened by the continuation and maintenance of 2014 sanctions since their implementation.”

There has been widespread condemnation by the UK of Russia’s activities, and it is good to see that strong line continuing.