Letters: Hasn’t Ukraine always been essential to Russia?

These letters appear in the September 2 edition of The Independent

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As usual, it requires an article by Mary Dejevsky to obtain a sane view on the Ukrainian crisis (30 August) and, indeed, on Russia generally. The mere fact of Russia’s having sent a few troops to aid its supporters in Ukraine seems to have sent David Cameron and other European politicians running around like a set of headless chickens.

The EU meeting to discuss the crisis (shown on TV) was a mixture of farce and tragedy. The women were the best – the Danish PM seemed to see the funny side of it (until she saw she was on camera) and Angela Merkel was shrugging her shoulders, while David Cameron (fully conscious of the cameras) had on his most serious “something must be done” expression and said we “knew from our history” that this sort of thing could not be permitted.

I don’t know what sort of history they teach them at Eton, but in my day (not at Eton) we learnt that Russia (like this country) never had been an expansionist European power (elsewhere perhaps). It had, however, been seriously invaded twice from the West and it liked to have as many buffer states as possible as protection.

Ukraine was always regarded as absolutely essential to Russian security. The present demand for independence has only arisen as a result of the crimes against the Ukrainian people committed by Stalin in the 1930s and of the fact that the western Ukraine is Catholic and was largely part of Poland before the Second World War.

Has the present Ukrainian government considered how it is going to keep its people warm this winter?

Peter Giles
Whitchurch, Shropshire


Sick boy under heavy hand of officialdom

What has happened to compassion in dealing with Ashya King and his parents? Unless there are circumstances surrounding this poor little boy which are being kept from us, what are the grounds for keeping this wee soul isolated from his family in a foreign hospital?

I understand from the news that his eldest brother is being allowed to see him, but the heavy hand of officialdom is all too evident and is repugnant.

Jan Huntingdon
Cricklade, Wiltshire

The parents of Ashya King have achieved one thing if nothing else: their son’s plight is in the public domain and not shrouded in the secrecy of our child court system. The attendant publicity may assist them in their aim of securing the best treatment for him that is available.

Nigel Scott
London N22


Time for Scots to leave the nest

The whole world must be amazed at the antics of the campaign to stop Scotland from becoming an independent nation. The “quiet revolution” of Scots speaking out for freedom from the old imperialism of London rule will continue until independence has been achieved.

A simple analogy that those who wish to retain the UK use often is that of the family, and the fear of it breaking up if Scotland gains her independence. What is never mentioned is that there are very few families that are not broken, either because of sibling rivalry or outside influences. Often the head of the family, who claims to know best, will try and quell the problem with punishment or bribery. This is exactly how Scots are being treated now.

It is time for Scots to leave the nest, and given time things will settle down, as an independent Scotland finds its way back into the world’s family of nations as an equal.

Bob Harper
Anstruther, Fife


Both the SNP, in campaigning for Scotland to be independent of the UK, and Ukip, in campaigning for the UK to withdraw from the EU, are making a case for full national sovereignty.

David Cameron, in supporting Better Together for Scotland to stay within the UK, is supporting arguments for the UK to stay in the EU – the large home market, absence of border tariffs, additional political weight. If being part of the UK is clearly in the interests of Scotland, then belonging to the EU remains clearly in the interests of the UK.

I cannot foresee a scenario in which Cameron would recommend to the British people that we withdraw from the EU. The mooted referendum on membership was never more than a sop to his right-wing critics, to try to keep them within the Tory Party.

John Boaler
Calne, Wiltshire


We are inundated with TV and radio programmes about the independence question, but there is a scarcity of answers.

I have read the white paper on independence and can find no definitive answers to European membership, currency or pension security. Those are matters vital for the electorate to know; they have been repeatedly raised with Alex Salmond, but left with no answer.

We are to be asked to vote on 18 September with important questions left unanswered, like some massive black hole.

Dennis Forbes Grattan


Attenborough’s unmade masterpiece

Your fulsome obituary to Richard Attenborough, coupled with Geoffrey Macnab’s article “A film too far’ (26 August), highlighting the life of the 18th-century radical Thomas Paine, could not have been more timely.

Both followed hard on the heels of Melvyn Bragg’s Radical Lives programme about Tom Paine recently shown on BBC2. My own play The Philadelphia Editor, about Paine arriving in America in 1775, was performed by a local group in 2012.

If ever a character and his remarkable life deserved the Attenborough treatment in a full-length movie then it was Thomas Paine. There might be no finer tribute to Attenborough’s life than if the long-awaited film, with finance from both sides of the Atlantic, could now  be made.    

Roger Paine
Hellingly, East Sussex


Men’s cancers ‘not serious’

Recently I had a swollen prostate detected. Cue the normal procedures – urologist, PSA screening test. Late on Friday evening I received a message from the surgery to contact them “urgently”. Far too late to do anything until Monday.

The good news is that my PSA is normal (and the swelling has gone down). What was so urgent? They had lost my consultant’s name and address!

The woman who sent the message could not see that it was an inappropriate message to send at that time. I asked if it were a mammogram or cervical smear result if she’d behave the same. “Of course not! Women’s cancer is serious, men’s isn’t.”

Several of my male friends who have had a similar scare or have discovered they have prostate and testicular cancer report similar reactions from the women who run GP surgeries, and the booking for hospital clinics.

So, it seems official: we, men, are second-class citizens in the NHS.

Name and address supplied


Clarkson takes over the world

A message to Mr Cameron: send your neighbour Clarkson J to stand for the Conservatives in the Clacton by-election. Not only will he win the seat, he may win you the next general election.

On second thoughts, maybe the Lords would be a better place for the great man? I somehow can’t see him relishing his constituency “surgeries”.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Hundon, Suffolk


A few years ago while on holiday in Jordan, I commented to our guide that almost every house had a satellite dish. He said it was so that everyone could now drive like Jeremy Clarkson.

Sue Thomas
Bowness on Windermere, Cumbria


Cameron wheels out the terror threat

Sir Humphrey Appleby contended that the best way to bury bad news was to expel some Soviet diplomats. The modern way is to bring forth the Big Bad Terrorist.

This “critical threat” has been dreamed up to take our minds off Ukip and to give government control-freaks an excuse for more draconian assaults on our liberties.

The last government quaked with fear at the shadow of the Big Bad Terrorist and tried to impose databases, ID cards and surveillance. Let’s hope the present government is made of sterner stuff. We cannot defeat terrorism on our knees.

Barry Tighe
Woodford Green,  Essex


The definition of a slut

Roald Dahl’ Revolting Rhymes has been banned by Aldi in Australia because the book includes the word “slut”. My grandmother’s definition of a slut was someone who sat in front of the fire, reading a book, with a hole in her stocking.

Younger readers may need it explaining that my grandmother believed you should not settle down to enjoy yourself before mending that hole.

Henrietta Cubitt