I wish to update the House on the situation in Ukraine and the Government’s response.
Peaceful protests began in Kiev on the evening of 21 November 2013, as a result of the announcement by the Government of Ukraine that they would delay signature of the EU-Ukraine association agreement. The protests spread and turned violent, particularly after 16 January 2014, when the Ukrainian Parliament passed a series of “anti-protest” laws in a vote that was flawed. These laws limited the right to protest and the democratic space in Ukraine. There have been a number of deaths and, worryingly, a number of activists have also disappeared. The Ukrainian authorities have made hundreds of arrests and there has been evidence of mistreatment of protestors by the authorities. Journalists seem to have been disproportionately targeted by the security forces.
Working closely with our international partners, the United Kingdom has called for calm on all sides throughout the protests. We have also made it clear to the Government of Ukraine that they bear particular responsibility to refrain from violence. The Foreign Secretary made these points to the Ukrainian Foreign Minister on 24 January. He also told him that the laws passed on 16 January called into question Ukraine’s democratic course. I was pleased to see on 28 January that the Ukrainian Parliament voted to repeal those laws. I hope steps can now be taken to address the underlying causes of the protests.
This is now a crucial time for Ukraine, and I will continue to urge the Government and the opposition to find a compromise acceptable to all sides, that allows the Ukrainian people the secure, prosperous and democratic future they deserve.
I would like to pay tribute to the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of the demonstrations in Ukraine. The United Kingdom will continue to monitor the situation and make it clear to those concerned that any restrictions on fundamental rights or abuse of basic human rights by the authorities will have serious consequences for the relationship between Ukraine and the United Kingdom. We are also clear that there is no place for violence, and that all sides should focus on dialogue and confidence building as a basis for finding a way forward.