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Volume 759: debated on Tuesday 10 February 2015


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what measures they are taking to enhance international support for the government of Ukraine.

My Lords, we are working closely with partners and allies to exert maximum pressure on Russia to de-escalate the situation in eastern Ukraine. In parallel, we are pushing hard for an additional IMF-led financial package to help stabilise the Ukrainian economy. We have also provided £19 million to strengthen the OSCE special monitoring mission, support the international humanitarian response and provide technical assistance to support economic and governance reforms in Ukraine.

I am grateful to my noble friend for her Answer. Does she not agree that, whatever does or does not happen in Minsk tomorrow, we still need a formidable economic package, given the financial state of Ukraine? That must be given priority and I am glad to hear that it is being worked on. Does she also not agree—again, whatever does or does not happen in Minsk—that we need to keep firmly on the table an option to supply Ukraine with defensive military equipment?

My Lords, first, with regard to aid, the IMF has indeed been carrying out investigations as to the measure of the gap between what Ukraine has, what it needs and what may need to be provided for it. In fact, the next IMF review reports in the middle of this month and will identify the need for further macroeconomic support. At that stage we will be able to judge what our contribution should continue to be. With regard to defensive materiel, my right honourable friend has made it clear in another place that that is something that every NATO country has the right to consider. At this stage, we are not considering supplying or selling defensive materiel to the Ukrainians, who are defending themselves against Russian-supported assault. It is important that pressure is kept up on Mr Putin to do the right thing.

My Lords, so far the EU consensus has held remarkably well but, for the sanctions package to be renewed, I believe that there has to be unanimous support in the EU Council and that vote will be in July. Given the close relationship between the new Greek Government and the Russian Government, and between Prime Minister Tsipras and President Putin, what are the realistic prospects of that consensus maintaining?

My Lords, since the election of the new Greek Government, there have been two occasions on which sanctions have been discussed at a European level. On each of those occasions, the Greek Government have agreed with the consensus of the EU-wide view that it is important to continue these sanctions. Yesterday, in the European Affairs Council, when the next tranche in ramping up sanctions was discussed further, it was decided to postpone their implementation until 16 February to give the diplomatic discussions this week a chance. There was consensus and it is important for all of us that consensus remains.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that Russia’s disregard for international law, and disregard for the rule of law at home, can best be challenged through democracy and freedom within Russia? Is she aware of the anti-war rally on 1 March, organised by Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Grigory Yavlinsky and Alexei Navalny, the champions of freedom and democracy in Russia? What talks are being held with civil society within Russia to try to bring about an end to the belligerence that Russia poses to its neighbours?

My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention again to the way in which Mr Putin has manipulated or prevented the ability of Russian people to speak out and what should be an elected Government with some freedom of expression. It is important that we all liaise with NGOs that have the ability to express their opinions. The difficulty is, as my noble friend pointed out in her debate last October, Mr Putin has been passing legislation to shut them down, if not shut them up.

My Lords, will the Government press for the earliest possible complete exchange of prisoners? Would this not be a huge benefit to the families and create a good atmosphere for negotiations?

My Lords, exchange of prisoners is not a straightforward matter, if ever there were such a thing. It would involve exchanging prisoners between Ukraine and the separatists and indeed the separatists and the Russians who are in east Ukraine with Russia. I am sure the noble Lord will be aware of the predicament of the Ukrainian pilot, Nadiya Savchenko, who is being held in Russia. We have raised these matters with the Russian Government. An exchange is not a one-off straightforward matter.

My Lords, we are just about to have a Statement on the same topic when there will be 20 minutes for Back-Bench contributions. It is actually the turn of the Labour Benches.

Does the Minister agree that it would play into President Putin’s hands to supply arms to the Ukrainian Government and make his position in Russia and his thesis about Western conspiracy more credible to the Russian people?

My Lords, that is precisely one of the political judgments that would need to be taken by each and every member of NATO before they took such an action.