Russian Annexation of Crimea

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:37 am on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Khalid Mahmood Khalid Mahmood Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs) (Europe) 10:37 am, 24th April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Davies. I congratulate John Howell on securing this debate. I commend him for the great interest he has taken in this issue for a long time, and for the depth of experience that he showed in his speech. It was very comprehensive and it enlightened people who have not visited Ukraine or been so aware of the relevant issues.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the non-suspension of Russia from the Council of Europe. How we deal with Russia is important, particularly as it is not currently taking part in the Council. As a former member, I understand that. The Council of Europe occupies a pivotal position in this dispute and in relation to Europe as a whole. In that sense, it is a phenomenally important institution, and its great work must continue.

The hon. Gentleman also referred to the “sham referendum” in Crimea and challenged the official statistics. An issue of concern to us all is the illegal occupation of Crimea and the legislative position that Russia has taken, particularly in giving people Russian nationality. The conscription of the Crimean people into the Russian army is also a significant concern.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned, too, the desecration of religious places, which is really important for us to address. Certainly, Orthodox churches, the Jewish community and mosques have been targeted. As he rightly said, the treatment of the Tatar community, a significant group in Crimea, has been a long-standing issue in the occupation of Crimea. Russia’s treatment of the Tatars, its persecution of the Jewish and Muslim communities and its targeting of Orthodox churches is to be condemned.

Angela Smith spoke about the military activity in Donbass and praised the election. I, too, welcome the election of Volodymyr Zelensky, who has followed a fairly untraditional route. Mr Whittingdale observed the election, and deemed the process to be reasonably good. When the election was suspended in December, I was slightly concerned that it would not go ahead, but Ukraine has shown itself to be a mature democracy. That peaceful election is a positive step forward for it, and electing somebody who was not previously involved in the political process is a phenomenally good thing. The new President will have to look at serious issues, such as corruption and how to move democracy forward.

I was slightly concerned by the comments of Mark Pritchard, who said that the President may seek to exchange peace in Donbass for Crimea. It is not our place to direct the thinking of the President of Ukraine or influence how he sees fit to negotiate. No elected Member of any country would seek to give away any part of their territory. On the contrary, Ukraine continues to fight to be reunified with Crimea.