Robertson’s call for NATO Putin invite “insulting” says UK’s biggest Ukrainian group


  By Martin Kelly
Calls by a Labour peer for Vladimir Putin to be invited to join NATO have been condemned as “ill-advised” and “insulting” by a UK based Ukrainian organisation.
Zenko Lastowiecki was responding to comments made by Lord George Robertson after the former head of NATO and leading NO campaigner, said the organisation “has to include Russia”.

Robertson made the comments in an interview earlier this month, given on the 65th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation.

The former NATO Secretary General said: “There’s no security in Europe, unless there’s an eventual perspective of an organisation that says: We stand for values, stand for liberal values, and that has to include Russia.

“Whether under the present or a future leadership, because the previous leadership, when Mr Putin was first president, believed in exactly that objective.  And that’s what we’ve got to aim for.”

However, the comments from the Labour peer were condemned by the leader of the Ukrainian community in the UK.

Zenko Lastowiecki, who is the president of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain, said: “George Robertson’s comments on Russia are as ill-advised as those on Scottish independence.

“The fact he has tried to distance himself from his comments regarding Russia speaks volumes.

“His views seem spectacular given his former role in NATO but are wide of the mark.”

Mr Lastowiecki added: “We can’t comment on his reasoning but is extremely bizarre whilst insulting to the Ukrainian nation who are on the edge of a precipice driven by Russia.”

The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) is the largest representative body for Ukrainians and those of Ukrainian descent in the UK.  The Association was founded in 1946 by Ukrainians who came to Great Britain at the end of the Second World War.  It has smaller branches throughout the UK.

The criticism of Mr Robertson’s comments, which were made after Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, comes in the wake of a row over an interview given by First Minister Alex Salmond in which he said there were aspects of Mr Putin’s leadership that could be admired.

On Tuesday the BBC reported that an Edinburgh branch of the AUGB is calling for Mr Salmond to apologise for his remarks.

The Scottish Government has issued a statement making clear that Mr Salmond’s remarks were made prior to Russia annexing Crimea and also confirming the Scottish Government’s opposition to Russia’s human right’s stance as well as its stance on homosexuality and the annexing of Crimea.

Below is Lord Robertson’s interview in full

[Newsnet comment.  There is little doubt that we are witnessing a coordinated smear campaign against Alex Salmond.  Mr Salmond’s comments on Putin were made prior to Russia annexing Crimea.

However, the decision by BBC Scotland to carry the smear in a number of high profile news bulletins has ensured the story has been widely promoted.  On Tuesday, BBC Scotland also gave widespread coverage to demands from the Edinburgh branch of the AUGB for Mr Salmond to apologise.

Newsnet Scotland was the only news outlet to report George Robertson’s calls for Putin to be invited to join NATO when the Labour peer gave his interview.  Why the traditional media ignored those comments, yet are in a frenzy over Salmond’s comments, only they can explain.  Now though we have obtained an official reply from the president of AUGB, condemning Robertson’s comments.

If, as BBC Scotland has clearly decided, critical statements from a branch of the AUGB are newsworthy then it follows that a similar critical statement from the head of the UK wide body is even more newsworthy.

On Tuesday evening Newsnet Scotland alerted several senior figures at BBC Scotland to this statement from Zenko Lastowiecki.  We invited them to check its authenticity.  It is now incumbent on BBC Scotland to report Lord Robertson’s comments and the resultant response from the president of the AUGB.

We also hereby give permission for any news outlet or online blog to reproduce the article above, should they wish.  There is no requirement to cite Newsnet Scotland as the source.]