Ukraine's ambassador to Britain condemns the Crimean referendum and explains why a stronger stance is needed against Russiaby Serena Kutchinsky / March 10, 2014 / Leave a comment
People hold a Ukrainian flag during a rally against the breakup of the country in Crimea (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
Before being posted to Britain as ambassador in July 2010, Mr Volodymyr Khandogiy occupied a succession of high-profile government posts including Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (2007-2010) and Chairman of the National Commission of Ukraine for UNESCO (2005-2006). Since arriving in the UK he has worked to progress plans for Ukraine’s membership of the European Union, and prior to the current crisis was in favour both of EU integration and maintaining a close relationship with Russia.
Serena Kutchinsky: Do you agree with the British Foreign Secretary William Hague that Russia’s incursion into Ukraine is “the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st century”?
Volodymyr Khandogiy: Yes, I do agree. This is a brutal invasion of one nation by another. Europe has not witnessed military intervention on this scale with such potentially far-reaching consequences for a long time.
SK: Why is this conflict evoking a much stronger response from the west than Russia’s 2008 intervention in Georgia did? Why is the Ukraine different?
VK: Aggressive behaviour is wrong wherever it occurs, but Russia’s recent actions violate the terms of the 1994 Budapest Memorandum which provides national security assurances to Ukraine. What also makes this situation unique is the historically close relationship between Ukraine and Russia. No other nation is as closely linked to Russia as we are—it is as if our brother has turned against us and started using force.
SK: But, that still doesn’t explain why the western powers have reacted so much more strongly towards Russia than they did in 2008. What do you think is behind their response?
VK: Some of my colleagues have argued that the west was more resolute against Russia in 2008 than it is now. I don’t agree, but I would have preferred a more robust response from the European Union such as the introduction of economic sanctions severe enough to compel Russia to withdraw its troops from Crimea. There must be a strong unified response because yesterday it was Georgia, today it’s Ukraine and who knows what might happen tomorrow if we allow Putin to continue unchecked?
SK: How do you respond to Putin’s claim that he is acting to protect the interests of the Russian nationals in Crimea and that the referendum [now…