Russian Annexation of Crimea

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:48 am on 24th April 2019.

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Photo of Alan Duncan Alan Duncan Minister of State 10:48 am, 24th April 2019

When we have something to say, we will choose the time to say it. This is not the forum in which to comment on the Council of Europe, because the debate, as on the Order Paper, is on Crimea.

With respect to the human rights situation, the UK continues to provide funding to Crimean human rights non-governmental organisations and to the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine, to help document and highlight human rights abuses.

It is testament to the bravery and fortitude of Crimean civil society that it continues to speak out in the face of relentless harassment. I know that some hon. Members took the opportunity to meet some remarkable Ukrainian human rights activists in Parliament last month. They were here for the screening of a documentary—partly funded by the UK—that highlights Russia’s human rights record in the peninsula, and the plight of over 70 political prisoners. Among such prisoners is Oleg Sentsov, who has been detained since 2014. The Foreign Secretary and I have consistently voiced our serious concerns about his welfare and deteriorating health. We have also condemned Russia for failing to provide Pavlo Hryb and Edem Bekirov with the urgent medical care that they need. They have been detained since August 2017 and December 2018 respectively.

Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol, and its continued interference in Ukraine, are illegal under international law. Ukraine chose a Euro-Atlantic future, and Russia must respect Ukraine’s sovereign decision, its independence and its territorial integrity. Until that happens, there can be no return to normal relations with Russia. That is why we will work to strengthen the resolve of the international community to stand firm against behaviour of this sort by Russia, to keep Crimea in the spotlight, and to expose Russia’s human rights violations.

We will continue to work with the Ukrainian Government to support its sovereignty and territorial integrity. We welcome the peaceful conduct of the presidential election on Sunday, and I congratulate Ukraine on holding the elections in an open and transparent manner. I offer my personal congratulations to Volodymyr Zelensky. Not only are the Prime Minister and the President-elect both Jewish, but they are both called Volodymyr. I also express gratitude to President Poroshenko for his leadership over the last five years in the face of the unprecedented security and foreign policy challenges for Ukraine. I welcome the strong partnership that we have built with Ukraine, in which we will continue to invest considerable energy.

In her call with President-elect Zelensky, the Prime Minister reiterated that the UK stands shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine. We will continue to remind the world that Crimea and Sevastopol are Ukrainian, that we will not recognise Russia’s illegal annexation, and that Russia will continue to face costs for its flagrant disregard for international law.