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Volume 604: debated on Tuesday 12 January 2016

5. What recent assessment he has made of the political situation in Ukraine and the prospects for full implementation of the Minsk agreements. (902967)

Ukraine is facing multiple challenges, both over domestic reform and the security situation in the east. We believe that the full implementation of the Minsk agreement remains the best chance of achieving a peaceful solution in Donbass, and we will continue to press all parties, especially Russia, to do more to meet those commitments.

I celebrated Ukrainian Christmas with Huddersfield and Colne Valley’s Ukrainian community over the weekend. We enjoyed holubchi, varenyky and borscht. Understandably, the community is very concerned about the situation in Ukraine. Will the Minister continue to do everything he can to implement the ceasefire, the withdrawal of heavy weapons and the return of democracy to Ukraine?

The need for the implementation of the ceasefire and the withdrawal of weapons were among the issues on which I pressed the Russian authorities in my meetings with First Deputy Foreign Minister Titov in Moscow just before Christmas 2015. I reiterated in my meeting yesterday with the Mayor of Lviv, Mr Sadovy, the United Kingdom’s commitment to the independent sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Under the Minsk agreement, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe is charged with monitoring ceasefire arrangements and weapons withdrawal. When did the Minister last meet the OSCE on this issue, and what is his assessment of its most recent report?

I last discussed those points directly with Michael Link, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, at the OSCE ministerial meeting in mid-December. The OSCE is doing a heroic job, with its monitors sometimes under direct personal threat from the continued fighting in the Donbass. It does not yet have access, to which it is entitled, to the whole of the Donbass, and we continue to press the Russians to use their influence over the separatists to allow the OSCE to carry out its mission fully.

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, in any discussions the Government have with Russia in relation to Syria, Ukraine will not be used as a bargaining chip and our desire to see Russia and its arms out of Ukraine will remain undiminished?

I can give my hon. Friend an unqualified assurance on that point. We will continue to talk to Russia about Syria and other matters, but we are absolutely clear that there is no trade-off between any agreement over Syria and our resolute support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker. As my right hon. Friend knows, corruption is a major problem in Ukraine, and one that is continuing to undermine the economic recovery of that country. What efforts are the British Government making to impress on the Ukrainian Government that they must end the practice of corruption if they want our continued support?

My hon. Friend puts his finger on one of the central challenges facing the Ukrainian Government and political parties in carrying out domestic reform. I do not think the House should underestimate how challenging that is in a country where corruption has been endemic for so long. We are doing what we can—not just through words, but with United Kingdom technical assistance—to enable the Ukrainians to move towards fighting corruption and establishing genuinely independent and impartial judicial and legal systems. The first projects under the good governance fund, which the Prime Minister announced last March, are now up and running in Ukraine.