Ukraine: Britain’s Dirty Secrets
By T.J. Coles
9 September, 2014.
Documents not reported in the media reveal that Britain had no qualms about training and arming both pro- and anti-Russian regimes in Ukraine. For years, the UK had quietly supported Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, including arming and training the Ukrainian military. The hope was that Yanukovych would facilitate Euro-American energy and pipeline companies and liberalise Ukraine’s financial sector.
The Wire: The Magazine of the Royal Corp of Signals states: ‘Since Autumn [2010, the 7th Armed Brigade HQ & Sig Squadron (207)] has seen it’s soldiers [sic] sent to all corners of the UK’s glorious training areas, … such as the Ukraine, Czech Republic and Marseille’.1
The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD)’s Annual Report and Accounts states:
‘In Serbia, Ukraine, Georgia and Armenia we have continued to provide advice on improved governance and Defence reform. Throughout 2012-13, MOD has assisted in the development of the Armed Forces of partner nations, by providing defence education and training to twelve countries through the Security Sector Education programme’.2
Yanukovych: ally to enemy.
This, despite a Foreign and Commonwealth Office report from 2012 stating:
‘Selective justice and rule of law remained concerns in Ukraine. The December , EU Foreign Affairs Council conclusions made clear that progress on the proposed Association Agreement depended on Ukraine acting in accordance with EU values. Earlier in the year, the EU called on Ukraine not to implement proposed legislation that would discriminate against the LGBT community’.3
‘Every year thousands of Ukrainians are beaten by the police to extract confessions for crimes’, said Amnesty International’s Heather McGill in November, 2013. Despite this, Britain’s training continued.4
McGill’s report on Yanukovych’s State-brutality preceded the massacre of dozens of demonstrators in Kiev, in which British-supplied weapons were very effective. In 2013, Britain exported £22,477,456-worth of weapons to Yanukovych, including ‘sniper rifles’, ‘weapons sights’, and ‘components for air-to-air missiles’.5
Britain worked equally fast to aid Ukraine’s new dictator, Petro Poroshenko. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Annual Report and Accounts 2013-2014 states: ‘Our Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) were activated on seven occasions to France, Kenya, Philippines, South Sudan, Ukraine and Egypt (twice)’.6
Chaos in Kiev.
The Mirror reports that ‘British teams have been moving around the country [Ukraine] covertly monitoring border crossing points and towns where Russian support is strongest to “clarify [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s intentions”’. The Independent quotes Ukrainians who claim to have found evidence of CIA and MI6 involvement.7
Energy is Britain’s principal interest in Ukraine. Cheap labour and goods is a secondary interest. UK Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said:
‘Ukraine is of immense geo-strategic importance, as it borders four European Union member states and, of course, Russia. We must also consider the size of the Ukrainian market, coupled with its near double-digit gross domestic product potential … [Ukraine offers] significant opportunities to UK exporters and investors … Ukraine is a major part of the European energy security jigsaw. It is an important transit route from the east to Europe, with 80% of Russian gas sold to EU customers transiting through Ukraine … Ukraine’s closer integration with the EU offers the surest way of ensuring that not only Ukraine’s long-term interests, but ours and those of our European partners are met’.8
Ukraine’s Orange Revolution 2004 ‘not only tore it out of Moscow’s sphere of influence, but was also a personal setback for … Putin, who had backed in an unprecedented way the losing presidential candidate [Yanukovych]’, a report by the British House of Lords concedes. ‘However, it provoked a national-democratic backlash in Ukraine that ended up strengthening Viktor Yushchenko and increasing international criticism at Putin’s foreign policy toward Ukraine’.9
The importance of oil and gas.
The UK’s trio of subversive institutions has been working hard to oppose democracy in Ukraine. They are the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), the British Council, and the Department for International Development (DFID).
The British Council notes that under Yanukovych’s predecessor, Yushchenko, the UK issued ‘strategic grants and connected capacity building which aims to make links within NGO/CSO [civil society organisations] communities, between NGOs and other CSOs and public institutions, and with other wider stakeholders, including the media and the general public’.10
Also under Yushchenko, WFD trained NGOs in ‘how to develop well-evidenced policy recommendations and present them professionally to MPs and parliamentary committees, and how to work with the media when running advocacy campaigns’. Can you image what would happen if Ukrainian propagandists were in Britain advising the three main parties and the BBC on how to report elections?11
A Yanukovych-era DFID report discusses Britain’s ‘‘mentor’ role … , more of which can be done from a distance using video-conference and email’. Another states ‘Thomson Reuters Foundation ran a competition for journalists who had taken part in [Parliamentary] courses to encourage excellence in parliamentary reporting’—meaning that journalists keep to party-political trivia, a la UK media.12
The subversion appears to have had some effect. In 2012, the Yanukovych government reported that ‘British businessmen note improving the investment climate in Ukraine. This was stated by a member of the Parliament of Great Britain, Jack Straw’, former Foreign Secretary under whom torture was committed, ‘during a working lunch with [the] Prime Minister of Ukraine’. The report went on to state that Straw said that
‘the British businessmen were convinced that the investment climate in Ukraine has improved radically[, noting] the possibility of intensification of investment … In particular, … the issue of attracting investment in agriculture, in particular the cultivation of sugar beets, irrigated agriculture in southern Ukraine was disscused [sic]. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov stressed that about 10 million hectares due to various reasons [were] withdrawn from agricultural use in Ukraine. He noted that this land can be returned to active use’.13
But, like Gaddafi and Assad in Libya and Syria, both of whom refused to agree to the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, Yanukovych refused to sign a crucial liberalisation agreement. He was ousted, following mass protests.
In 2014, an article subtitled ‘Why we saw this one coming’ was published by the Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence, King’s College London. The author noted that, ‘Under pressure from his Eastern neighbor [Russia], Yanukovych decided to abandon the plans to sign the Association Agreement … represent[ing] a huge blow to the Ukrainian relations with the EU’.14
1. The Wire: The Magazine of the Royal Corp of Signals, ‘News from squadrons’, June, 2011, p. 70, https://www.army.mod.uk/documents/general/June_Wire.pdf
2. MoD, ‘Annual Report and Accounts 2012-2013’, 31 March, 2013, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/222874/MOD_AR13_clean.pdf
3. FCO, ‘Human Rights and Democracy: The 2012 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Report’, April, 2013, London: Stationary Office, p. 109.
4. Amnesty International, ‘With or without EU agreement, Ukraine must eradicate torture’, Press Release, 19 November, 2014, PRE01/612/2013.
5. Department for Business Innovation and Skills, ‘Strategic Export Controls: Country Pivot Report 1st January-31st December 2013’, p. 584.
6. FCO, ‘Annual Report and Accounts 2013-2014’, 1 July, 2014, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/foreign-and-commonwealth-office-annual-report-and-accounts-2013-14–2
7. Sean Rayment, ‘Military intervention in Ukraine risks spiralling into ‘all-out war’ with Russia’, 20 April, 2014, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/ukraine-crisis-head-mi6-warns-3434167 and Kim Sengupta, ‘Ukraine crisis’, Independent, 5 May, 2014, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/ukraine-crisis-mercenaries-m16-and-ready-meals–evidence-of-western-involvement-or-something-far-less-controversial-9322948.html
8. Ben Smith, ‘Ukraine, the EU, Russia and Tymoshenko’, House of Commons Library, SNIA/6117, 10 November, 2011, www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/SN06117.pdf
9. Select Committee on the European Union, ‘Memorandum by Dr Frank Umbach, German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP)’, 20 December, 2007, https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldeucom/98/98we13.htm
10. British Council, ‘Democratising Ukraine Small Project Scheme (DFID-funded)’, 2005, https://www.britishcouncil.org/development-governance-experience-democratising-ukraine.pdf
11. WFD, 2010, Annual Review, London: WFD.
12. UKAid (DFID) and WFD, Annual Report: Strengthening Human Resources Development in Southern Parliaments, 2009/10, GTF Number: 394 and ibid, Annual Report 2010/11.
13. Department of Information and Communication of the Secretariat of the CMU, ‘British businessmen note improving the investment climate in Ukraine’, 27 July, 2012, https://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/en/publish/article?art_id=245431142
14. Nikki Ikani, ‘Yanukovych, Russia and the EU’, Europe on the Strand, 22 February, 2014, https://europeonthestrand.ideasoneurope.eu/2014/02/22/yanukovych-russia-and-the-eu-why-we-saw-this-one-coming/