Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Opposition could well get a little more robust on the Ukraine crisis

 

With events moving fast 5,000 miles to the east, events in the Commons inevitably seemed a bit off-Broadway. William Hague was at his most statesmanlike – and he does statesmanlike pretty well – condemning Russia’s “violation” of Ukrainian sovereignty, praising the government in Kiev for not being “provoked” by the “extreme situation” and urging the Russians to join talks in Paris on Wednesday.

But when the Tory backbencher James Gray declared: “I hope that a bully like President Putin will listen carefully to the strong and clear messages that the Foreign Secretary has delivered,” you couldn’t help wondering whether the Russian President might have other things on his mind. That said, the Moscow lobby was not well represented in the Commons.

Once, during the Cold War, it might have been different, at least among a few Labour fellow-travellers. Instead, in a strange reversal, the main questioning of the criticism of Russia – and there was very little – came from a minority of deeply Eurosceptic Tory MPs who probably find it hardest to understand why demonstrators should have risked their lives in Kiev to forge closer links with an institution – the EU – which they would rather keep at arms’ length.

The point that the EU might be partly to blame for the crisis was put most forcefully by the venerable Sir Peter Tapsell, a man so steeped in history that the last Crimean war doesn’t seem that distant. Tapsell prophesied “a third world war… if the already over-enlarged EU is going to continue to try to extend its borders towards Mongolia”.

He reminded MPs that “every Russian knows that the capture of Crimea and Sevastopol was the greatest achievement of Catherine the Great… and Potemkin”.

Tactfully, Hague pointed out that “Russia gave Crimea to Ukraine in 1954” (when both were in the Soviet Union) and had since reached international agreements which forswore the use of armed force or territorial intrusion into Ukraine. When an otherwise supportive Douglas Alexander raised the document, photographed on Monday and saying Britain should “not support, for now trade sanctions… or close London’s financial centre to the Russians”, Hague insisted that “no partially photographed documents should be taken as any guide to HM Government’s decisions” and he was ruling nothing out.

He didn’t rule much in, either. But the cerebral Tory Andrew Tyrie, describing the Russian incursion as “nothing less than a land grab and the biggest strategic shock on the continent for decades” added: “If Putin gets away with this, sooner or later more trouble will follow in central and eastern Europe… the UK should demonstrate that it is actively considering all forms of economic sanctions.” Since Tyrie is the listened-to Treasury Select Committee chairman, it’s just possible things could get a little more robust.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Mortgage Advisor - OTE £95,000

£40000 - £95000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Purchasers

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Trainee Vehicle Inspectors / Pu...

Recruitment Genius: Vehicle Broker / Purchaser

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

£18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'