Salmond to write to Ukraine critics on Putin

ALEX Salmond is to write to Ukrainian representatives outlining his objections to Vladimir Putin’s regime after coming under sustained attack for expressing admiration for the Russian president.

First Minister Alex Salmond: Pressed by opposition leaders. Picture: Jane Barlow
First Minister Alex Salmond: Pressed by opposition leaders. Picture: Jane Barlow

The First Minister revealed he intends to send a letter to the Association of Ukrainians of Great Britain and its Scottish branch during a bruising First Minister’s Questions.

All three opposition leaders attacked Mr Salmond for saying in a GQ magazine interview that he admired “certain aspects” of Mr Putin’s leadership.

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He repeatedly refused to withdraw or apologise for his remarks, arguing that he was referring to Mr Putin’s restoration of Russian pride during the Sochi Olympics.

Michael Ostapko, the Scottish chairman of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, later expressed his compatriots “hurt, disgust, betrayal and astonishment” at the First Minister’s remarks.

Questioned by Labour’s Johann Lamont, Mr Salmond said: “The first thing I said was I didn’t approve of a range of Russian actions, by which I meant not just their attitude to Ukraine but also their attitude to human rights, particularly towards homosexuals.

“I said also I believed he [Putin] had been underestimated by the western press, I think that’s pretty obvious now.

“I did express my admiration for certain aspects, by which I had in mind the restoration of Russian pride because I was speaking in the aftermath of the Sochi Olympics, indeed I was speaking during the Paralympics.”

He said external affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop had met the Russian consul general in January to voice Scottish Government “opposition to Russian policies on homosexuality”.

In March, he said, the government “expressed again to the consul general our concern about Russian attitudes to Ukraine”.

When tackled by Tory leader Ruth Davidson, he disclosed he would be writing to his Ukrainian critics.

“I will be writing to the Association of Ukrainians of Great Britain and the Scottish branch explaining the full range of the Scottish Government’s action, making it clear that through the meetings both with the Russian consul general, through the meetings with the Ukrainian representatives and indeed the public statements that I and others have made – which have been substantially reported – how we have made our attitude towards the Russian attitude to Ukraine absolutely clear.”