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Published on Feb 14, 2015
I listened to the Chair of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma, Alexei Pushkov, explaining the need for a rapid peace solution for Ukraine. Unfortunately, his government is doing everything possible to prevent peace. Instead it is choosing to continue with its contemptible approach of inventing a false narrative with which to justify military aggression against Ukraine. Russia is providing heavy military equipment, financial assistance and combat troops to the so-called separatists, sparking a conflict in which over 5 000 people have now lost their lives – 263 civilians alone in the last six days and 1.5 million people displaced. As we approach tomorrow’s Minsk deadline for a renewed attempt at a ceasefire, rebel troops are surrounding the important railway hub of Debaltseve and I have just heard of further criminal attacks today on civilian areas by the rebels in Kramatorsk in which at least seven civilians were killed. So sadly, even if a ceasefire can be agreed tomorrow – and I hope that I am wrong in what I am about to say – it is unlikely in my view to end the conflict. As recently noted by the British Foreign Secretary, Putin is behaving like a 1930s tyrant and such agreements are merely part of a dissembling approach to gradually legitimise territorial gains before embarking on another round of attacks. Ukraine is not an isolated area of foreign policy for Putin, but part of his wider dream to reconstitute a crony capitalist, authoritarian greater Russia and to challenge the post-Cold War settlement and legal order. Challenging NATO and the Western alliance is therefore part of his mission. Maintaining unity on EU sanctions against Russia is of importance and excluding Russia from the SWIFT system could be the next step. Militarily, we must not allow Russian intimidation to prevent so-minded EU states from supplying the Ukrainian armed forces the means to defend themselves and to deter Russia’s ability to steal more territory from Ukraine. Sadly, in my view, the EU strategic partnership with Putin’s Russia, for now, is over.