A delegation from the Bundestag’s European Affairs Committee will travel to Ukraine without one of its members, after Kyiv banned him from travelling. EurActiv’s partner Tagesspiegel reports.
Andrej Hunko, of Die Linke (the Left Party), is no longer welcome in Ukraine. The German MP visited eastern Ukraine twice last year, in February and November. “We travelled through minefields,” said Hunko after his first tour. In his second visit, he crossed into the Donbass region, which from Kyiv’s point of view was illegal.
The trips, which Hunko undertook with his colleague Wolfgang Gehrcke, also involved meetings with separatist leaders and will now have serious consequences for the leftist politician. The Bundestag committee’s Ukraine visit will, as a result, take place without Die Linke’s European Affairs spokesperson, after Kyiv imposed a travel ban. Hunko also told Russian media outlet Sputnik that he is on a Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) blacklist.
The delegation, led by Gunther Krichbaum (CDU) and which flew to Kiev on Sunday (31 January), consists of two other CDU politicians, an SPD member and a representative from the Greens. Today (3 February), the German politicans will meet with government officials, members of parliament and civil society, as well as with Kyiv’s mayor, former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko. Attempts to organise a meeting with President Petro Poroschenko were not successful.
Die Linke actually called for the delegation’s trip to be cancelled once Hunko’s ban materialised. It pointed out that a scheduled visit by the Human Rights Committee to Cuba in the last legislative period had been cancelled because meetings with civil rights campaigners had been denied, and CDU MP Arnold Vaatz had been declared persona non grata by Havana.
On Friday (29 January), Hunko made the decision not to try and make the journey and his party decided against sending a replacement. This was after “formal consultations” with the German Foreign Office and the embassy in Kiev. “How serious these consultations actually were, I cannot say,” said Krichbaum, who believes that the travel ban is justified.
In defence of Kiev
Krichbaum told Tagesspiegel that “in principle, other countries cannot dictate to the Bundestag about the composition of its delegation. But in this case it is different”. Official travel bans are active against Hunko and Gehrcke because “they illegally entered the country repeatedly, using Russian help, into separatist-controlled territory”.
As a result, they left Ukraine no choice. Other states such as the USA Russia and Germany itself would react the same way in similar circumstances. “Ukraine’s decision is understandable and complies with international law. Politicians are still citizens and must be treated as such when they commit a criminal offence,” Krichbaum added.
Open the floodgates
Die Linke faction leaders Sahra Wagenknecht and Dietmar Bartsch wrote to the President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert (CDU), calling upon him to intervene in the matter.
In a letter of 21 January, seen by Tagesspiegel, they told Lammert that, “It is not right that third-party governments can dictate who takes part in a Bundestag delegation. This example could set a precedent and other governments could exclude unwelcome MPs from other delegations and the floodgates would open.”
Wagenknecht and Bartsch added that the travel ban is an “undue restriction on freedom of expression and movement”.
Hunko explained that his Ukraine visits were “humanitarian” in nature and “nothing to do with illegal arms dealing or other criminal activities”. Die Linke had collected donations for a children’s hospital in eastern Ukraine, and in order to hand over the money, direct contact with the separatist leaders was deemed unavoidable.
This article was also published by EurActiv Germany.