Home About Jonathan News Parliament Campaigns Gallery Links Contact

Jonathan Djanogly calls on UK to stand behind Ukraine

20th December 2017

Speaking in a debate on the situation in Ukraine, Jonathan Djanogly recounts his experiences from his recent visit and raises concerns of Russian aggression along its borders and calls on UK to stand behind Ukraine’s fight for its right to live as an independent sovereign nation.

Mr Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) on securing the debate and on leading the recent delegation to eastern Ukraine, which I had the privilege of joining. That was not my first visit to Ukraine, but it was my first visit to the Donetsk region. To see the challenges posed in places such as Kramatorsk and Avdiivka next to the Donetsk airport, where so much blood was recently spilled, was an eye-opening experience.

This is still a hot war, and Ukrainians are being killed on a weekly basis, with shelling happening more days than not. We visited a coke coal plant near the separatist lines, which had half its water tanks blown up, severely impacting production. The people who work there just get on with running the plant. I very much agree with my right hon. Friend that they are very brave people indeed, not least given that they are living under the threat of invasion, death and displacement—we are talking about some 1.5 million internally displaced persons who, if they are permitted or dare to go back to the occupied zone at all—say, to visit relatives—suffer the humiliation of rough border searches and poor treatment from separatist militia, many of whom are criminals or mercenaries.

Much humanitarian and foreign aid is getting to free east Ukraine, but that is a very poor area and its economic and infrastructure needs are extremely pressing. Like my right hon. Friend, I was very moved by the dedication of the students and staff of the Gorlovka institute of foreign languages at the Donbass State Technical University, which has been re-established in unoccupied Bakhmut. Those displaced young students were making the best of a very basic building and facilities. We had a meeting and question-and-answer session with about 100 of them, and I found moving and inspiring their desire to educate themselves, to develop their country and to look westwards to the ​values of EU countries. It was also a reminder that although media interest may have moved on from Donetsk, the underlying issues have not.

I appreciate that the UK is giving Ukraine a lot of assistance, not least in terms of non-lethal military help and training, and also on governance issues, but I ask whether more of our Department for International Development resources could be spent helping those on our own continent who are clearly in real need.

As my right hon. Friend said, it may be that for many of our citizens, Ukraine, let alone east Ukraine, is a distant place that they have little thought for or, if they do think of it, there is little feeling of common cause. At this point, I need to refer to the elephant in the room: Russia and its vicious warmongering and anti-humanitarian actions along its borders. Ukraine has 20% of its territory occupied, and so does the republic of Georgia.

Many other neighbouring states, not least the Baltics, have the same fear of Russian aggression. It is not for no cause that British troops, planes and ships have been moved east of Germany for the first time in more than a century. Of course, Estonia is in NATO and Ukraine is not yet a member, although I hope that one day it will become so. What is clear, however, is that Russia is using Ukraine as a test case for trying out its latest hybrid warfare techniques. That has involved the use of everything from agents provocateurs or little green men and the mass use of propaganda and cyber-warfare, right through to drone technology and the development of conventional military tactics.

To those who are still wondering what this matter has to do with the UK, I say this. It is unlikely, although by no means impossible, that Russia will wish to invade more of the lands to the west. That is because garrisoning and paying for the failing economies in the lands that it has already occupied have badly stretched Russia’s already weak economy. However, it also seems increasingly clear that what Russia really wants is a series of weak and corrupt vassal states surrounding it that it can control and bully and that it believes will act as a buffer against western European economic and cultural advancement.

Sadly, however, that is not where it stops, because Russia also seems intent on using the skills that it picks up while abusing its neighbours in order to disseminate destabilisation, hatred, corruption, criminality and fear among NATO countries. I am talking about things such as the mass use of false accounts on Twitter and Facebook to polarise society through the spreading of fake news—for instance, by propagating anti-Islamic messages after recent atrocities or by trying to affect campaigns such as that for the EU referendum. I am sure that that will be the subject of another debate, but I mention it here because UK citizens need to realise that Ukraine’s fight for its right to live as an independent sovereign nation is also our fight. Ukraine is our ally in dealing with that threat, and we should be helping it more. In my view, that should be help in rebuilding its society and infrastructure and in building up its defences. It should also include providing Ukraine with defensive military equipment, not least Javelin anti-tank missiles capable of dealing with the huge Russian tank build-up in occupied Ukraine.

Of course, the UK will not solve this issue working alone or just militarily. In that context, I congratulate the EU on deciding last week to maintain sanctions against Russia for a further six months. We must remain united with the EU and robust on sanctions post Brexit.

Mr Seely

Is my hon. Friend aware that the pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine have more tanks than the British and French armies, and has he any idea where they may have got those tanks from?

Mr Djanogly

I was aware, but that fact needs to be well publicised; it is not known widely enough.

We must also be welcoming here to Ukrainians. The Schengen area has just awarded visa liberalisation to Ukraine. I accept that that is unlikely in the UK until we know where we stand post Brexit, but the bitter complaints that I heard from Ukrainians about the lack of efficiency in the existing process demand a review now.

The other key issue that came up during our visit related to the development of Ukrainian civil society. At this point, let me recognise that that is a different society from our own. Ukraine suffered greatly under communism; and, with its early-stage capitalist, oligarch-controlled economy, it is prone to corruption and political stagnation, in a way that can be unnerving and sometimes shocking to many of us in the west.

Reforms are being made, not least to liberalise and regulate the economy, and that has sometimes led to hardship for people—for instance, in relation to energy prices. However, it was made clear to us by many whom we met that although the Ukrainian Government keep saying that change must be gradual, large numbers of Ukrainians are getting impatient with the slow state of reform. I did not get the feeling that that will result in another Maidan-scale revolt at the current time, but it will be important that we do what we can to encourage accelerated reform.

By the way, I was very impressed by our embassy’s resolve and action to do exactly that. Let me recognise also that there are a number of excellent, reform-minded new and younger Ukrainian MPs, who see a better future for their country and are determined to fight for that future. We also saw some very impressive reforms, not least the local government and police permit one-stop shops, where permits can be applied for under one roof: because the issuing department does not directly interface with the applicant, corruption is largely stopped. So credit where credit is due.

It does sometimes seem, however, that it is one step forward and then one step back. The appointment of new Supreme Court judges was for the most part seen by civil society activists whom we met as a win against corruption, but reports came through a few days ago concerning the attempted suppression of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine and its head Artem Sytnyk, which points badly. Given the problems with corruption, I would say that establishing a system of anti-corruption courts and ensuring clean judges for them should be a priority for Ukraine next year. Those concerns are shared by the EU, the US, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. If we are to help Ukraine, we must also insist that Ukraine help itself. Of one thing I am convinced, however: this is our continent, and Ukraine’s battles are our battles and part of the UK’s future. We should not be neglecting them.

| Hansard

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

For the latest Government advice on the Coronavirus pandemic visit www.gov.uk/coronavirus


For the latest medical advice visit www.nhs.uk/coronavirus



Jonathan's Campaigns

Fair Votes for All Petition

A428 Petition


Broadband Access

Cotton Farm Wind Farm

Hinchingbrooke Hospital

Local Post Offices


Search this site