Ukraine crisis: UK ministers to boycott Paralympics in response to Russia’s ‘declaration of war’

William Hague has travelled to Kiev today, and the UK’s involvement in Sochi-based G8 summit talks has been suspended

David Cameron has announced that British government ministers will be boycotting Russia’s 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics, which open on Friday, in the wake of the ongoing international crisis in Ukraine.

Writing on his official Twitter account, the Prime Minister said: "Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, (Foreign Secretary) William Hague and I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics."

It was not immediately clear what this might mean for Britain's 15 ParalympicsGB athletes, but represents a strong statement given the UK's reputation, with Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury, as the birthplace of the Paralympic games.

The announcement came as Mr Hague said the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine had been "violated" and called for Moscow to speak directly to the nation's new leaders.

International pressure is mounting on President Vladimir Putin after Russia yesterday authorised the mobilisation of troops in Ukraine, whose acting prime minister has described recent developments as a "declaration of war" - but so far Mr Putin has ignored the widespread international condemnation of his country's aggression.

 

Mr Hague was due to attend G8 discussions in the Black Sea resort paving the way for a summit in June, but the UK has now suspended its cooperation with the process.

Speaking from RAF Northolt as he was about to board a plane to Kiev, he said: "We have to recognise the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Ukraine has been violated and this cannot be the way to conduct international affairs and so, in addition to calling yesterday's emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, the United Kingdom will join other G8 countries this week in suspending our cooperation under the G8, which Russia chairs this year, including the meetings this week for the preparation of the G8 summit.

"We will keep our approach to further G8 meetings under review."

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Ukraine's new prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, today called on Mr Putin to pull back his troops, warning "we are on the brink of disaster", while Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged Moscow to calm the "dangerous" situation.

Mr Hague, who will meet Ukraine's interim leaders in the country's capital, added: "I think we will see increasingly over the coming days the very strong concerns of the world by many, many nations and I hope that that direct communication between the two countries will be able to take place.

"Our response is diplomatic and peaceful and it should be. That is our response but it will be a very united diplomatic response and not just from the Western world, I think, but from many other countries in the world and that is something that Russia will have to think hard about."

Meanwhile, hundreds of British-based Ukrainians gathered outside the Russian Embassy in London today to protest against the build-up of troops in the Crimea region.

The demonstrators chanted and held banners reading: "Hands off Ukraine".

Many of them waved placards accusing President Vladimir Putin of being the "Russian aggressor" and chanted: "Stop the occupation."

Bogdan Maksak, a 20-year-old Ukrainian studying accounting and finance at City University London, attended the protest to call on Britain to uphold its commitment under the 1994 Budapest Memorandum and take action against Russia.

The agreement, signed by the UK, US, Russia and Ukraine, promised to uphold the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

Mr Maksak said: "I would like to ask the British Government to assist Ukraine and also keep its promises of the Budapest Memorandum.

"They have to make sure that we are protected and they also have to take action because at this stage staying neutral is almost like playing on the Russian side."

Additional reporting by PA

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