The UK followed up on getting it completely wrong about Euromaidan, with … getting it completely wrong about what happened in Crimea, in 2014.
Blanket support for Maidan, meant that the UK’s position was, from the start, against those in Crimea protesting against the coup in Kiev: Maidan – good. Against Maidan – bad. Went the UK’s thinking.
However, there was something interesting in this, the BBC, ever the faithful mouthpiece of the UK government in international affairs, actually veered from the Crimea narrative, in the early days. Fresh from blanket coverage of the sunny side of Maidan, beautiful / heroic protesters speaking about their desire for a ‘free Ukraine’, to ‘be Europeans’ etc etc –
…none of the molotov-hurling terrorists or acknowledgement that the east of the country was actively opposed to Maidan – the BBC’s Daniel Sandford (pictured) was down from Maidan, reporting from Crimea, on February 25th, 2014, that people there were ‘demanding Russian passports‘… ‘To the people of Sevastopol, it’s not a Ukrainian history, but a Russian one‘…. before adding the obligatory ‘if Russia wants to cause trouble (in Crimea), all the ingredients are there.’
Yet very quickly, even this tokenistic attempt at objectively from the BBC had been ‘corrected’, and their reporting had reverted to script, February 27th: Ukraine crisis: Russia warned against Crimea ‘aggression’
Out went the actually talking to people in Crimea, and by the way I was in Crimea myself at this time, finding people readily disposed to talking, and a very different picture to the one the BBC were depicting –
Over at the BBC, it was :
‘Russian troops’ guarding Crimean government HQ
Ukraine: Putin signs Crimea annexation
The BBC’s tone, as it invariably does, mirroring that of the UK government, with David Cameron coming out a few days before the Crimea referendum of March 16th, 2014, that it would be:
“illegal, illegitimate and will not be recognised by the international community”
Cameron of course, later, a few days after the referendum, upped that to that the vote had taken place ‘under the barrel of a Kalashnikov‘. Ridiculous, of course, and even very silly. I was in Crimea, visiting polling stations, on the referendum day.
The BBC, ‘strangely’, nowhere to be seen on that day, an entirely calm, jubilant even, day, where Crimeans, en masse, headed for the polling stations –
Start of the day:
Street interviews with people in Simferopol:
Do these people really look like they’d need to be made to vote under the ‘barrel of a kalashnikov’? Was there any evidence at all of that at polling stations. Of course not, it was nonsense from the UK, who even admitted later they got it all wrong:
The British government was left in the dark during the Ukraine crisis because its diplomats can’t understand Russian
MPs says the lack of language skills in the Foreign Office is ‘alarming’
In the years since, neither language, or seemingly any other skills have improved at the Foreign Office. The UK have zoned in on the supposed ‘persecution’ of Crimean Tatars are the latest cause celebre of the day. I was in Crimea in 2016 filming the largest gathering of Crimean Tatars yet, at the Hiderlez festival –
Meanwhile the UK’s ambassador to Ukraine, LGBT obsessed Judith Gough – who’s never once been to Crimea in her time in the role, was tweeting this –
What does Boris do? Well, goes to Ukraine, meets up with Crimean Tatars in Kiev – who’ve been there for the past 3 years, making a comfortable living by speaking about how everything is dreadful in the Crimea they’ve not been to for over 3 years, and who their own people regard as traitors: (this, my interview with an actual Crimean Tatar leader, in Crimea):
Boris meets them, and mouths off a few buzzwords about ‘human rights’ etc, ‘Russian annexation of Crimea’ etc on his travels. There are clear signs of increasingly fewer people believing Boris, or the British position on Ukraine, and Crimea – however this doesn’t deter Britain from just blindly barrelling on with its pre-set polemic from a parallel reality.
What’s the problem then? Is it language skills? Is it mental skills? Or does the UK’s foreign policy bear a lot less relation to reality, than it does to UK business interests?
Whatever the reason, Britain’s policy on Crimea is mistaken, misguided, deceitful, and mired in the kind of blinkered small-mindedness which currently condemns the UK to the tier of second-league nations.
I’m not the only British person who finds this all deeply embarrassing.