Trust in the ability of people to make decisions about their own future is a fundamental tenet of democracy. On Sunday, the citizens of Ukraine go to the polls to elect a new president in one of the most important elections of their history. Every voter in Ukraine should have their say on the future they want for their country. And as our foreign secretary, William Hague, said in his video message to Ukrainian voters this morning, they have the UK’s strong support.
I am encouraged that polling is set to take place in more than 90% of the polling districts across Ukraine except Crimea, and is likely to be unhindered in the majority of the country’s 25 regions. It is also good news that the Ukrainian parliament is making special arrangements for those who live in Crimea to vote. . . .
These elections were a response to a president abandoning his post after years of running a venal and corrupt regime. Ukraine’s legitimately elected parliament reacted properly by calling these elections and appointing authorities to take charge in the meantime. They asked for and received the support of most of the international community for this period of transition. The Russian Federation has taken advantage by illegally annexing Crimea and stirring up trouble elsewhere in the south and east of Ukraine.
The violent separatists do not represent the people of Donetsk and Luhansk or the east of Ukraine, let alone the country as a whole. A recent poll showed that 70% of people in the east wanted to stay part of Ukraine. Yet these so-called pro-Russian separatists, led by people who by their training, equipment and behaviour give every appearance of sometimes being Russian special forces, are trying to destabilise Ukraine. . . .
But the Ukrainian government and parliament have responded: we have seen significant legislation passed that ensures the whole country is represented, and we have already seen the launch of a national dialogue with representatives of the country, including a significant number of people from the east of Ukraine. Ukraine is rightly trying to find its own solution to the challenges it faces and the international community must give it time to do so.
David Lidington is the minister for Europe and Conservative MP for Aylesbury.