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Volume 671: debated on Tuesday 4 February 2020

2. What steps he is taking to support political development in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement. (900586)

The United Kingdom is a strong supporter of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and President Zelensky’s commitment to reform and fighting corruption. We have provided financial support to the tune of £38 million this year, across multiple areas, and we lead robust sanctions on Russia for its attacks on Ukraine’s sovereignty. We look forward to welcoming President Zelensky to the UK as soon as a date can be found.

Will my right hon. Friend welcome President Zelensky’s decision to extend the visa-free regime for UK citizens for another year? Does my right hon. Friend share his ambition for Britain and Ukraine to conclude a new framework agreement as soon as possible, including possible liberalisation of the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens?

My right hon. Friend is a doughty champion of Ukraine’s determination to look westward and be a modern European country. We will certainly welcome, as soon as we can, the ratification of such an arrangement, and I congratulate the President on his announcement on visa-free access for UK nationals. That will certainly help trade with the UK, which we want to ensure is successful, but we also need to protect our own borders. The Home Secretary is responsible for border control, but we keep our border policy under constant review, and visas to and from Ukraine are something I discuss with her regularly.

On political development and the importance of having human rights protected, including in Ukraine, I am aware of a number of examples where Christians have been persecuted, injured and politically challenged for their beliefs. What has been done in discussions with Ukraine to ensure that human rights are protected and people have the right to express themselves?

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for his question. We of course discuss these matters with Ukraine. I am particularly concerned about the repression of fundamental human rights—the right to speak the Crimean language—in Crimea by the annexing forces, and I raised that issue when I went to Kiev last year. We will always place these issues, be they in Ukraine or elsewhere, high on the agenda.