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06/12/2016

UKIP blames MEPs and Verhofstadt for deaths of Ukrainians

UK & Europe

UKIP blames MEPs and Verhofstadt for deaths of Ukrainians

UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson in Strasbourg. She was suspended by her party last night amid claims of expenses fraud.

[UKIP/YouTube]

MEPs “directly encouraged” the deaths of young Ukrainians by interfering in the Ukraine, a UK Independence Party politician told the European Parliament yesterday (15 January).

Janice Atkinson’s comments in Strasbourg were criticised by the European People’s Party and the Socialists and Democrats, the two largest political groups in the Parliament.

UKIP “unusually” voted for an amendment to a resolution on Ukraine because it calls for the repeal of the EU-Ukraine association agreement, she said.  

A majority of MEPs called for the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement by all member states before the May Eastern Partnership summit in Riga in a resolution condemning Russia, and potentially backing stronger sanctions against it.

Read>>Parliament to condemn Russia’s ‘aggressive and expansionist policy’

 “The EU has no right to interfere in Ukraine,” Atkinson, MEP for South East of England, said. “It shook a stick at the Russian bear and it reacted and this led to brave young people’s deaths directly encouraged by my colleagues in here [the Parliament].”

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EurActiv contacted UKIP’s spokesman Herman Kelly in Brussels after Atkinson’s comments.

He said, “”MEPs such as ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt, went to Kyiv making very provocative speeches.  MEPs and people like American John McCain must take responsibility for the reaction they caused.”

Verhofstadt travelled to Maiden Square in Kyiv and addressed anti-government protestors there in February 2014. Ukrainian police snipers later shot protestors before then-president, the Russia-backed Viktor Yanukovich, fled Kyiv later that month. As the Ukraine Crisis escalated, Russia annexed Crimea.

Verhofstadt was unable to comment when contacted by EurActiv. But both the EPP and S&D criticised Atkinson’s comments.

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‘Low level propaganda’

The S&D group told EurActiv her comments were “very low level propaganda” about a tragedy.

“The truth is that for once the EU reacted in a united way and rapidly by imposing sanctions. We just want international law to be respected.”

The EPP told EurActiv it rejected the accusation that the EU’s interference caused the war in Ukraine.

Elmar Brok, chairman of the Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in the plenary, “It seems that everybody is responsible for the crisis except Russia. But it is a fact that Russia marched into another free country and annexed part of it.”

Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, EPP negotiator on the resolution, said, “The EU should be prepared to provide a strong and decisive answer to the Ukrainian crisis resulting from Russia’s waged aggression and occupation.

“We often do too little, too late, and in a shy manner […] We are not calling things for what they are – war as war and terror as terror.”

Controversy

In September last year UKIP leader Nigel Farage courted controversy after saying Russian President Vladimir Putin was the statesman he most admired. And he has also told the European Parliament in the same month that the association agreement amounted to playing war games with Putin.

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It’s also not the first time that Atkinson has found herself at the centre of controversy. In August last year, she was embroiled in a racism row after she was recorded calling a UKIP-supporting woman of Thai origin a “ting tong from somewhere”. 

Her remarks were recorded by BBC South East Today after an interview. She was still wearing a microphone after the interview in Ramsgate, Kent.

Ting Tong was the name of a Thai transsexual mail order bride played by comedian Matt Lucas in popular sketch show Little Britain (see picture). She offers sex in exchange for, among other things, residency in the UK. Ting Tong is also a Thai colloquial term for a mentally ill person.

Elected in the 2014 EU elections, Atkinson is a substitute member on the European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, which is responsible for the protection of minorities.   

Read>>UKIP race row erupts where Farage plans to stand in UK elections

Fighting continues

Fighting raged at the international airport in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk on Friday (16 January) as a fresh attempt to resume peace talks to end the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine failed.

Kiev officials said six Ukrainian soldiers were killed overnight and 18 wounded in attacks by separatists. A seventh soldier was killed on Friday near the airport, an official of the army general staff said, according to Reuters.

Background

The crisis in Ukraine erupted after its former President Viktor Yanukovich cancelled plans to sign trade and political pacts with the EU in November 2013 and instead sought closer ties with Russia, triggering protests that turned bloody and drove him from power.

Moscow annexed Crimea in March following a referendum staged after Russian forces established control over the Black Sea peninsula in the biggest East-West crisis since the Cold War.

Pro-Russian militants control buildings in more than ten towns in eastern Ukraine after launching their uprising on 6 April. On 11 May pro-Moscow rebels declared a resounding victory in a referendum in Donetsk and Luhansk, which the West called illegal and illegitimate.

The fighting has escalated sharply after Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered on 1 July an assault on separatists. The EU's resolve to punish Russia strengthened after the downing in Ukraine on 17 July of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, killing all 298 people on board. 194 of the passengers were from the Netherlands.

Western leaders say pro-Russian rebels almost certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile. Moscow has blamed Kyiv for the tragedy.

On 27 August NATO and the US said Russian incursions into Ukraine took an ‘overt and obvious form’ and on 28 August Poroshenko said Russia had invaded Ukraine.

>> Read: Poroshenko says Russia invaded Ukraine

Further Reading