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With Crimea Platform, sanctions can become even smarter — UK Ambassador’s interview, part 1

Melinda Simmons, Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Ukraine since 2019.
With Crimea Platform, sanctions can become even smarter — UK Ambassador’s interview, part 1

The Crimea Platform should not be led by any other country than Ukraine, and Ukraine should be the narrator of the actual problems in Crimea, so that they can be addressed with “even smarter” sanctions, British Ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons says.

In the first part of her interview with Kyiv Not Kiev, Her Excellency shares details on the Partnership for a Strong Ukraine Fund, on how the UK sees the Crimean Platform, and its position on Ukrainian oligarchs.

The United Kingdom and Ukraine are known to be long-time friends who support each other in various fields and initiatives. We couldn’t miss the chance to talk to the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Ukraine, Ms. Melinda Simmons, about all things connecting our countries.

On Partnership for a Strong Ukraine Fund

A few months ago, Great Britain, together with other countries, initiated the Partnership for a Strong Ukraine Fund. We heard about it first when Wendy Morton, the Minister for Europe and the Americas at the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, announced the project during her visit to Kyiv to join the Crimea Platform.

The United Kingdom, Canada, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States agreed to help Ukraine mitigate Russia’s destabilizing influence in the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine. The Partnership for a Strong Ukraine Fund is expected to become operative by December 2021 and aims to raise up to £35 million from donors over the next three years.

We asked Ms. Ambassador to tell us more about this initiative and its goals.

Up to now, the UK and other countries have helped Ukraine with humanitarian assistance, aid for refugees, military support, etc. But, in Ambassador’s opinion, only the humanitarian and development side doesn’t help change anything. In fact, we’re just dealing with a persistent problem.

“The Fund is not yet live. I hope it will go live at the end of this year. What I expect it will do is engage with the communities, women and girls, professional people who have left the region and would like to return,” said Ms Simmons.

Representatives of countries will see what’s most important for these people in terms of security, what they think of the government’s economic plan, and what sort of support they need from countries like the UK. So, this initiative will enable citizens to try to transform things for themselves.

“It’s quite risky. It’s a quite brave thing, but it’s a proactive thing for us to be doing,” emphasized the Ambassador.

On the Crimea Platform initiative

The inaugural summit of the Crimea Platform, a newly-created center for developing and adopting international decisions on Crimea de-occupation, opened in Kyiv this August.

The introduction of the Crimea Platform was first announced a year ago, in KYIV NOT KIEV’s interview with Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzheppar, exclusively for the project. Since then, the Platform has been in a constant focus of our attention.

Since then, we have asked every ambassador we interviewed about their respective state’s participation in the Crimea Platform. Every time we heard a firm YES, and it really resulted in 47 countries participating in the Platform.

Crimea Platform – mere formality or workable mechanism to recover Ukraine’s peninsula?

The Ambassador mentioned that the UK was the lead international convenor for the Crimea issue until this Platform idea came up.

“I think it’s very exciting that it’s Ukrainian-led. It shouldn’t be led by any other country,” stated Ms. Simmons.

The Ambassador hopes the expert-level conversation will be launched under each of the pillars to educate foreign partners of Ukraine on precisely what is going on in Crimea. That’s how the international community can talk about the problem of annexation from the point of hard-core intelligence and target the conversation away from the general #CrimeaIsUkraine towards “this is the effect of the annexation, this is what’s going on.”

Ukraine should be the narrator of the actual problems in Crimea so that the international community can fully understand the scale of events happening on the peninsula, including the environment, militarization, human rights situation, etc.

The Ambassador emphasized,

“This way sanctions can become even smarter because we can apply them to very specific scenarios.”

On the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO

In the previous interviews, the Ambassador stated that the question of Ukraine joining NATO is resolved in principle. But for that to become a reality, Ukraine should work pretty hard.

“It’s struggle. It takes a long time. It’s boring. It is not good for TV. These are not things that work well visually,” highlighted the Ambassador.

By “struggle,” Ms. Simmons meant implementation of reforms in Ukraine and the fight against those who don’t want these reforms to happen.

“There is a huge vested interest in Ukraine, particularly in judicial reform. We saw that particularly in the last weeks and months that when you start to really change things, those who don’t want to change work pretty hard to make sure that it doesn’t happen.”

Ambassador believes that Ukraine has a lot to do to progress with the main milestones towards eventual NATO membership. It is perhaps most true of defense reform.

“Defence reform is moving too slowly. The structural work needs to be done to ensure that the Ministry of Defence and its agencies can operate in a transparent way and that judicial reform provides equally for those elements of defence reform to make progress,” highlights Ms. Simmons.

The United Kingdom is one of Ukraine’s most significant military cooperation partners. Great Britain has done a lot to support Ukraine’s military and make it stronger. For example, the UK launched the “Orbital” instructor mission, which provides for the UK Armed Forces’ deployment in Ukraine.

British troops have been providing training and capacity building to the Ukrainian Armed Forces since 2015. The mission is now extended until March 2023.

On anti-oligarchic law

“There is a common position which is – something has to be done with oligarchs,” stated the Ambassador.

Ms. Simmons believes that it’s inevitable there will be legislation that will come forward on the oligarchs. And this law does its bit. But it can only work effectively together with other legislative norms aimed at solving the problem.

“You certainly need the reform of legislation. But it will only work if other things also happen like free independent media, liberalization of the energy market, anti-monopolist commission, equal access to investment, judicial reform so that foreign investors know that the law isn’t tilted towards vested interests,” said Ms. Simmons.

However, the Ambassador praises the fact that political debates regarding this topic took place. She considers it as an inherently positive sign.

“But even the best law will not get you there without these other measures. The test is whether these other measures will get attention,” concluded the Ambassador.

Let us remind you that last month the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted in the second reading the presidential bill on oligarchs. According to the President – thanks to the law, “the oligarchic branch of power will disappear.” The law proposes to consider as oligarchs all those who meet “at least three of the four listed characteristics,”

  1. This person should participate in political life.
  2. A person should have a significant impact on the media.
  3. A person should be the ultimate owner of the company – the subject of natural monopolies or a monopolist in one of the markets.
  4. The confirmed value of assets should exceed 1 million subsistence minimums (UAH 2.27 billion or USD 83 million).

The President of Ukraine has welcomed the adoption of the law. However, many believe that he only earns political points in this way, and the law itself will be an instrument of political persecution.

The adoption of this law even led to the dismissal of Parliament Speaker Dmytro Razumkov, as he didn’t support the position of the mono-majority and the President. We discussed this event with Ms. Simmons too.

So, make sure you will not miss the second part of the interview next week.

Victoria Dubiv is a Project Manager at TRUMAN Agency, Editor of KYIV NOT KIEV

Tetiana Gaiduk is Creative Services Director at TRUMAN Agency, Co-founder and co-host at KYIV NOT KIEV

More on UK-Ukraine relations:

Watch other interviews with diplomats:

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