Russian President Vladimir Putin will be “happy” about the Brexit vote, according to the Ukraine’s UK ambassador who has appealed for solidarity from the Scottish Government ahead of talks with External Affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop.
Natalia Galibarenko is holding diplomatic meetings with political and industry leaders in Edinburgh this week with a view to seeking close political and trade links.
She fears that “EU solidarity” may diminish after the UK’s departure and weaken the bloc’s resolve in dealing with Russia after the Crimean was annexed and ongoing tensions in the Ukraine’s eastern border.
Speaking ahead of keynote talks with Ms Hyslop tomorrow, the ambassador said the Brexit vote had a major impact in Ukraine, with concerns over the UK’s future influence as a “staunch supporter” in its conflict with Russia.
The UK has also assisted Ukraine in developing financial programmes and establishing the general prosecutor’s office, as the country battles to tackle endemic problems with corruption.
“I think Mr Putin will be happy with Brexit,” Ms Galibarenko said in Edinburgh today.
“It is in his interests to go forward, including in Ukraine, to first of all lift sanctions and secondly to have the EU weakened, frustrated and concentrated on resolving internal problems - instead of looking outside and looking at what Russia is doing in the neighbourhood.
“So I believe they were happy because of that decision and also I think it’s not a secret that they are really supportive of different right-wing parties across Europe.
“If there would be another referendum or another decision to withdraw from the European union or to change something, of course it would play in the interests of the Russian Federation. EU solidarity, EU strength, this is the best support for Ukraine, but this is an enemy to the Russian Federation.”
She described the UK as a “crucial partner” in the security sphere and said British politicians and businesses have been resolute in holding firm in the sanctions against Russia even if it this means a “little economic sacrifice.”
“UK is one of those partners who is in favour of really defending values and really defending the international world of order and of course I’m afraid that if the UK will not be quite as active about the Ukraine in Brussels, then of course it can endanger our position and endanger sanctions.”
Sanctions were imposed on Russia in the aftermath of Putin annexing the Crimean peninsula which housed a key naval base at Sevastapol. The situation has also been fraught on the eastern border area of Donbass where war had raged as pro-Russian separatist groups sought autonomy from Kiyv. The Minsk protocol, alleviated the fighting, but Ms Galibarenko described the situation as “no peace, nwar - something in the middle.”
Ms Galibarenko is hoping to learn from Scotland’s experience of devolution to help de-centralise power in her own country from Kiyv. Ukraine is also looking to forge closer trade links with Scotland, after the stand-off with Russia saw investment tumble.