Why I launched Labour Friends of Ukraine

British politics is mired in an inward-looking and parochial phase, but I believe Labour is better than that


If I tell you I was at Euromaidan you’ll immediately get the wrong idea. On a freezing cold day of brilliant sunshine, I was keeping an appointment with an important Ukrainian for whom I have a soft spot; my wife. It was December 2013 – before the violence erupted – and despite the anger at recent events the atmosphere was convivial, you might even say comradely.

The demands at the centre of the protest were unremarkable, even humdrum. An end to the corruption that was (and still is) crippling the country and the introduction of what makes our lives in the EU prosperous and enviable – the rule of law; operating inside a framework of rules presided over by fair courts and transparent institutions.

You know the history – those simple ambitions had been dashed by Viktor Yanukovych after a late intervention by Vladimir Putin involving the offer of cash, the exertion of energy blackmail and the application of threats.

In front of the hastily erected stage the huddled crowd pogoed together for warmth to a chant of ‘Khto ne skache toy Moskal’ (Those not jumping are Russians), proud activists graffitied their home town in the maze of tunnels around the Metro stations – Rivne, Odessa, Mukachevo, Kharkiv – and enterprising vendors sold flags and scarves asserting Ukrainian pride and independence from Russian interference.

The Euromaidan I saw, and prefer to remember, was fond, hopeful and emboldened. I imagined it to be a second Orange Revolution and hopefully more successful. I’d be lying if I claimed to foresee what happened next.

What happened next – long after our departure – was closer to a cataclysm. The streets aflame, the same pogoing activists I’d stood alongside – now in ramshackle armour – scrambling for cover as their friends were picked off by snipers.

Back in London we worried for our family and friends, and worried still more when Russia’s ‘little green men’ invaded and annexed Crimea. I’d spent time in this beautiful, rugged, region and never detected in the taxi drivers and shopkeepers the ability or inclination to pick up Kalashnikovs and drive tanks through Sevastopol.

What did we think Putin would do when we acquiesced in this nonsense of ‘concerned citizens’ taking up arms? He did what any nationalist who considers the collapse of the Soviet Union ‘the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century’ would do: he made another land-grab by moving into eastern Ukraine. Francois Hollande may say there is no military solution to this conflict, but Vladimir Putin would like to disagree.

For someone with a real connection to Ukraine I arrived shamefully late to the conclusion that I had a responsibility to do something more than tut at the hot air of Western leaders and compose anti-Putin tweets. I launched Labour Friends of Ukraine last week with the modest ambition of bringing together sympathetic party members, providing news and notice of events and perhaps even attracting some support from our MPs and MEPs.

British politics is mired in an inward-looking and parochial phase but I believe that Labour is better than that. We believe in a better world, not just better gas and electricity bills.

With his old fashioned masculinity and faux-deference to conservative religion Putin is, almost to a comedic extent, the personification of a Sicilian mobster. In his creepy ethnocentrism and appeals to national destiny there are historical parallels that are nothing to laugh about. Labour has faced down such men in the past and expressed solidarity with their victims. It’s time to do so again.

Jamie Milne is the Labour councillor for Evelyn ward, Lewisham. Follow LFU on Twitter

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23 Responses to “Why I launched Labour Friends of Ukraine”

  1. Guest

    Ah yes, the left and Jews must be purged in your world, your trolls must be allowed free reign.

    You don’t care about the Ukraine, right, you just support your Russian Brothers, etc, and we must “live with” Russia’s invasions.

    The Times has a paywall, LB.

    Of course you love the idea of turning a blind eye to Russia’s invasion, as you demand we do nothing about it.

    Not the same thing at all. And yet you’re demanding that other views be censored because you’re so scared of them!

  2. damon

    You’re trolling me Leon.
    Do you think you could stop it?
    Maybe you’ve got nothing else to do but lurk on here and pounce on people with your nonsense.
    But there are so many people like you online I really can’t be bothered with yet another one.

  3. Guest

    You’re claiming that criticism of your right wing views is “trolling”. You are desperate, clearly, to silence left-wing views by any means.

    You can’t “be botered” with people who don’t ascribe to your ideals, who don’t like censorship, who don’t have a problem with all theists, etc.

    You keep calling not having your intolerance “nonsense”, as you show how narrow-minded and anti-debate you are, Lord Blagger, Mr. “Scourge of Pensions”

    As you whine and moan about 10% of your hyperbole occaionally being used, as you put your views on a plane of non-criticism compared to everyone else’s.

    As you use PC bigotry when I talk about you, and you generalise against groups.

  4. damon

    Put up or shut up Leon.
    You have made no ”criticism” of my views, other than to take my saying I didn’t support any ”Labour friends of” groups with my saying I supported Russia in Ukraine, or that my saying that Israel was too bomb happy in Gaza last year meaning that I hated Jews.
    You’re as bad as Russia Today.
    I’m hoping you might just be a youngster and that this is a phase you’re going through.
    It’s slightly annoying though as it means that this blog is being spoiled by a selfish kid at the moment.

  5. Guest

    Yes, your self-admitted selfish trolling as a kid is – you keep screaming that left wing views must be censored, as they are not your hard right views.

    Then you demand that I be like your preferred news outlet, as you use slurs against all left wing views.

    You refuse to admit or think about the criticisms of your views, as you support your beloved Russia, and as you supported Hamas over Israel, criticising attacking terrorists.

    Your radical agenda is clear.

Comments are closed.