Tuesday, 4 March 2014


Coincidentally, this follows on from yesterday's post about Nigel Farage's attitude to migrants from the continent of Europe. When I read the accusations of Russian president Putin and Ukrainian president-manqué Yanukovych that the Kiev protesters were organised by the West and dominated by neo-Nazis, I immediately thought of those Ukrainian immigrants to Britain after the second world war. Putin has raised the spectre of the Ukrainians who sided with Hitler in the 1930s in order to frighten people into his camp.

However, as this history shows, significant numbers of Ukrainians came the other way, to a UK run by Attlee's Labour government, to help win the peace by working in industry and, especially, in the coalfields of Yorkshire, the English Midlands, Scotland and South Wales. I remember the Ukrainian Club in Morriston, Swansea, surviving well into the 1960s and I see from the AUGB web-site that Ukrainian societies in other parts of the kingdom are still thriving.

Putin's rhetoric has already been compared with that of Hitler before his annexation of Sudetenland. Chris Bryant drew the comparison half-way through today's questioning of William Hague and it is surprising that the parallel hadn't been drawn earlier. Mr Hague and some commentators have characterised the effective seizure of Crimea as an emotional response to criticism of perceived weakness at home. The latter does seem unlikely, given that any electoral opposition is likely to come from the liberal side and was easily seen off by fair means and foul in the last elections. The fact that the annexation of Crimea went smoothly and comprehensively suggests that it had been planned well in advance. I suspect that the planning started as early as the time of the Orange Revolution in case the after-effects of this were not favourable to the Russians. It seems to me that Putin does see the endgame, the "figure in the marble" as Gerald Abrahams put it in The Chess Mind. This does not necessarily include total recapture for the Russian Federation of the whole of Ukraine. It was somewhat worrying that Western leaders did not seem to have a clear picture of their own, that difficult negotiations prevented a common front being developed expeditiously. However, the steep fall in the value of the rouble and of Russian stocks must have come as an unwelcome shock to the Russian leadership and given pause to people on both sides.

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