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EU Sanctions (Russia)

Volume 596: debated on Tuesday 9 June 2015

1. What his policy is on continuation of EU sanctions on Russia until that country complies in full with its obligations under the Minsk agreements. (900175)

7. What his policy is on continuation of EU sanctions on Russia until that country complies in full with its obligations under the Minsk agreements. (900181)

Sanctions were imposed because Russia invaded and annexed Crimea and intervened in eastern Ukraine. They can be rolled back when Russia has taken steps to comply with international law and its own commitments, starting with the full implementation of the Minsk agreements.

The sanctions on the Russian regime are clearly starting to have an effect, but does my right hon. Friend agree that support for the democratically elected Government of Ukraine is also important? Will he describe the action that the Government are taking to support the democratically elected president, President Poroshenko, in moving forward to defend Ukraine from Russia?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of helping the elected Government of Ukraine. The United Kingdom has provided Ukraine with technical assistance to support economic and administrative reform as well as humanitarian aid and non-lethal military assistance. We stand ready to discuss with the Ukrainian Government what further ways we might be able to help them in their task.

Will my right hon. Friend commit to working with the Defence Secretary to ensure that the toughest possible sanctions are applied to Russia until all the Minsk II protocols are met, and that Russia is aware that threats to Moldova and the Baltic states will result in the most severe repercussions?

My hon. Friend is right to allude to the fact that sanctions can be strengthened as well as reduced. It all depends on what Russia chooses to do. We have demonstrated our strong commitment to our NATO allies in the Baltic states through our participation in air policing and NATO training exercises in that region, and our solidarity with them will certainly continue.

We hear this morning of even more tragic deaths in Ukraine. When will all this stop? Sanctions are not enough. The Russians are looking closely at us as we run down our defence forces and do not commit to the 2% spending level. That is a fact—the Secretary of State does not like it, but the fact is that a weak Britain, weak in Europe, is not good for our country.

I think it is generally accepted that there is not a military solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine. That is why we are determined to continue with the diplomatic and political path on which we, together with our partners and allies, have embarked. We need to see the Minsk agreements implemented in full and, in particular, for the OSCE monitoring mission to be given access to the areas controlled by the separatists, which is still not happening.

I am pleased to hear the Minister say that there is no military solution in this case. Over the weekend the Foreign Secretary reportedly said that “unnecessary provocations” must be avoided when dealing with Russia but, when asked, he did not rule out the placement of US nuclear missiles on UK soil. Will he take the opportunity to rule that out very firmly?

We have not been asked by the United States for such a location. If we received such a request, we would consider it on its merits in the way that successive British Governments always have done.

Given that evidence was submitted to the Foreign Affairs Committee that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had no in-house Crimea experts at the time of the Russian annexation, does the Minister agree that greater investment is required in our analytical capabilities?

We have an extremely talented team of analysts working in the eastern European and central Asian directorate within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. In the light of events over the past 18 months, we have taken steps to strengthen the capacity of that side of the FCO. It is fair to say that most Governments throughout the world had hoped on the basis of the past 25 years’ experience that Russia was moving towards integration in a rules-based international order. It is clear from the actions that Russia has taken in the past year that that cannot be guaranteed and we need to respond accordingly.

The G7 communiqué agreed in Germany states that

“we…stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase cost on Russia should its actions so require. We expect Russia to stop trans-border support of separatist forces and to use its considerable influence over the separatists to meet their Minsk commitments in full.”

Given the clear evidence that Russia continues to pursue its proxy war in the Ukraine, what more will the Government do to ensure European unity and maximum pressure on Russia in the sanctions process? On today of all days, does the Minister agree that our role as a strong voice for united European action in the face of Russian aggression would be helped if we did not leave the European Union—a move that would delight President Putin?

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his final words. If he looks at how the United Kingdom Government have been engaged since the Ukraine crisis began, he will see that my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been decisive in getting a tough EU sanctions regime in place against Russia. We are actively engaged in contingency planning should those sanctions need to be further strengthened in response to Russia’s actions. When I saw the Russian ambassador last week, I emphasised to him the need for the Minsk agreements to be implemented in full, including access to all territory for the external observers.