: Human Rights in Ukraine: A British Foreign Secretary who excuses Russia's invasion of Crimea?

11:58 Jul. 14, 2016

Human Rights in Ukraine: A British Foreign Secretary who excuses Russia's invasion of Crimea?

New Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson arrives at Downing Street on July 13, 2016 in London, England. (Getty Images)

Human rights activist Halya Coynash on UK's new Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson

The new UK Prime Minister Theresa May doubtless had her reasons for giving leading Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson a cabinet post. Making him Foreign Secretary, however, defies any comprehension.

It is especially difficult not to view this as an affront to all those currently facing persecution in Russian-occupied Crimea given his extraordinary attempt to blame Russia's aggression against Ukraine on the EU. This was only one of a long list of distortions and lies told to encourage Britons to vote to leave the EU, but it is one which makes the new portfolio a matter of immense concern.

Read also Grybauskaite: We have to take Putin's paranoia seriously

On May 9 this year, during questions and answers after a speech on Europe, it transpired that for Johnson it was not Russia's invasion and annexation of Crimea and its military aggression in Eastern Ukraine that had caused "real trouble", but the EU's actions.

"If you want an example of EU foreign policymaking on the hoof and the EU's pretensions to running a defence policy that have caused real trouble, then look at what has happened in Ukraine, " he told reporters.

Johnson later reacted angrily to what he called ‘smears', denying that he was an apologist for Russian President Vladimir Putin. He did not explain what he had meant, and what, in his view, the EU had done to stoke tensions in Ukraine.

It was hardly surprising, therefore, that his words were taken as justifying Russia's actions. Johnson was, after all, simply repeating a position first taken by the head of the right-wing UKIP party Nigel Farage in a speech soon after Russia's invasion of Crimea. In March 2014, Farage accused the EU of having "blood on its hands" for encouraging the turmoil in Ukraine which had supposedly led to Russia's annexation of Crimea. This was recalled days later when he was reported as saying that "Vladimir Putin is the world leader I most admire".

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