The Foreign Secretary William Hague has confirmed that the UK will not participate in the G8 meeting in Sochi in June, after hundreds of armed Russians surrounded a Ukrainian military base in Crimea.
This blockade is feared to be a prelude to a full scale invasion by President Putin, who has asserted his right to ‘protect ethnic Russians’ in eastern Ukraine. Mr Hague followed American threats to pull out of the G8 by confirming he would not attend the meeting.
Today Mr Hague flew to Kiev for crisis talks with the new government. Mr Hague said: “We have to recognise the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and this cannot be the way to conduct international affairs.
“And so, in addition to calling yesterday’s emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom will join other G8 countries this week in suspending our co-operation under the G8, which Russia chairs this year, including the meetings this week for the preparation of the G8 summit.”
A former British ambassador to Moscow, Sir Tony Brenton, said Mr Hague must “damp down” the tension between Russia and Ukraine. He said that Putin: “is determined to maintain Russian influence in Ukraine as a whole, and he has now taken Crimea… hostage.
“William Hague’s job in Kiev today is to begin to damp down the dangers of things getting worse. There are two real problems, first of all Ukraine may overreact to the Russian occupation of Crimea and we could get into a shooting engagement, which would be deeply disastrous, and certainly wouldn’t get the Russians out.
“And secondly other bits of eastern Ukraine are showing signs of unrest. The Ukraine government in Kiev needs to reassure those part of the country about their attention to the rights of the Russian minority there.”