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

I certainly agree that there was no aggression on the part of Ukraine. There has only been aggression by the Russian state in relation to the occupation of Crimea—I say that unconditionally. I was trying to say that it is not our position to guide or interfere in the policies that the President of Ukraine makes in relation to his own country. He was elected in a peaceful, democratic election. I was taking issue with the comments of the hon. Member for The Wrekin. It is important that we look at those issues and resolve them.

My hon. Friend Mrs Moon, who, I believe, is on her way to Brussels as we speak, made some pointed comments about interference in elections, particularly in relation to cyber and digital aggression against Ukraine. The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published a fairly significant report into that, and its Chair has done some significant work on the matter. We continue to be concerned about that issue, and my hon. Friend Tom Watson continues to take a keen interest in it.

What is happening in the Azov sea is very serious issue, and we should look at addressing it through sanctions. That is where the Nord Stream 2 pipeline comes into play. We must look not just at Russian participation in the Council of Europe, but at how the Minister can work with Germany, given that a significant trade deal involving gas supplies has been done. There are underlying problems with Nord Stream 2. The initial pipeline that was put in takes money away from Ukraine as a way to punish it, so we must look at how we can support Ukraine. We should use the pipeline as a negotiating tool to try to push this issue forward. That is a serious issue for us to deal with. My hon. Friend Chris Bryant made, I think, a reasonably good joke. He made a comparison with Georgia. We must bear that in mind and ensure we stop any further interventions.

Time is running short, and the Minister wants to get in. I ask him to address the issue of the sailors currently being held by the Russians. We must look at how we can influence that situation. The passage to the Azov sea, the bridge that has been built and the Nord 2 Stream pipeline are serious issues. We must try to get influence so we gain a reasonable negotiating position with Russia to deal with the issue of Crimea. The Magnitsky amendment, which the right hon. Member for Maldon spoke about, is very important. If the Government can push it along, it would go some way to dealing with the situation.

Finally, I pay tribute to the Ukrainian ambassador, who is in the Public Gallery, for the great work that she continues to do. I hope that the recent attack on her car will not hinder our relationship or her great work.