Steve Richards states (4 March), almost in passing, the fundamental truth of the situation in Ukraine, namely that an elected president has been deposed by a diverse (read “motley”) band. Why is the British Foreign Secretary posing, quite literally, with Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the apparent supporter of the mob rule which has taken hold of western Ukraine and which has provoked this crisis?
Of course the Russians, both in the Crimea and more widely, feel that their vital interests are under threat and have acted to safeguard them. It is to be hoped that they will continue to act with restraint in a highly inflammable and dangerous situation, not of their making.
Roger Blassberg, St Albans, Hertfordshire
That the West lacks the military resources or the will to launch an offensive against Russia’s invasion of Crimea is beyond doubt. It is also doubtful that Putin has much appetite for a full-blown occupation of Ukraine, on three major counts.
First, if he gets Ukraine, he gets back the notorious Chernobyl site whose far-reaching deadly effects are still with us nearly 30 years on. Lurking not far from Kiev, like a sleeping monster, Chernobyl is still there, entombed in concrete, surrounded by miles of radioactive countryside.
Russia would also be lumbered with what little remains of its once mighty Ukrainian-based Soviet military-industrial complex, which dates back to the days of the Tsars. Beyond producing wheat and exporting dodgy ex-Soviet cameras, Ukraine’s economy is less bread-basket than a basket case, hardly a glittering prize for Moscow.
Third, post-Sochi, an impoverished Russia has Gazprom and Europe needs Gazprom.
That is why, beyond an ego-trip and some post-Soviet posturing, Moscow will say “nyet” to a full re-appropriation of Ukraine and the West will say “no” to a fight for Crimea.
Anthony Rodriguez, Staines, Middlesex
William Hague is a member of the Conservative Friends of Israel and as such he is not an anti-Semite; obvious enough, but then why is he backing the Svoboda Party, which has illegally taken power in Ukraine? A brief look at Svoboda’s political make up will make every Jewish person shudder, with their pro-Nazi views and anti-Semitism, but Mr Hague sees no problem.
Anti-Semitism is not something to condemn and then ignore when it is politically suitable to do so. It should always be condemned and Mr Hague’s membership of Conservative Friends of Israel needs revoking.
Dr Kevin Cordes, Derby
Suddenly British politicians have discovered some compassion for east Europeans.
Until Mr Putin’s intervention in Crimea, Ukrainians, like their neighbours in Romania and Bulgaria, would have been seen as a potential immigration threat by at the very least the Faragist wing of the Tory party.
Tsar Vlad the Great offers to take this problem off their hands – and they are all up in arms.
Keith B Watts, Wolverhampton
Dispute over the remains of Richard III
News that scientists at the University of Leicester are subjecting the mortal remains of Richard III to further destructive tests in order to sequence the king’s genome raises serious questions of propriety and ethics.
The university’s custodianship of the remains is currently subject to a legal challenge and therefore sub judice. Renewed testing amounts to what can only be described as a cavalier disregard of the legal process.
Moreover, there has been no independent verification that these tests are either ethical or necessary. Indeed, the university has, in effect, authorised itself to conduct tests that are far from essential and will add very little to our useful knowledge of England’s last Plantagenet king.
Essential initial testing to confirm the king’s identity was sanctioned by Philippa Langley of the Looking For Richard Project (who instigated and raised the funding for the archaeological search), in her contract with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).
However, this came with a proviso: Philippa Langley’s contract with ULAS stated that any remains positively identified as Richard III would be transferred to her as custodian to be placed in a prayerful environment to await reburial.
We feel that the university has exhibited contempt for the judicial review process. We also feel that it has refused to honour a contract with Philippa Langley, freely entered into before the archaeological search began.
These are not appropriate actions for an academic institution. They raise legitimate concerns as to what future actions the university may take without suitable authorisation.
Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Annette Carson, Dr David and Wendy Johnson, Philippa Langley, Looking For Richard Project, Lawford, Essex
It’s the future that matters in Ulster
Claire Dwyer Hogg (3 March) refers to the “on the run” letters given to Irish republicans, and the police investigations into Bloody Sunday, and asks: “How can justice be served if a terrorist and an employee of the state are given an equal level of accountability?”
But it is precisely this equality that was claimed by those employing the Armalite and the bomb in their cause of a united Ireland. They claimed, and continue to claim, that they acted as the agents of a future state, their actions sanctioned by a historical imperative that placed them on an equal footing with their British oppressors.
Like so many groups that resort to violence as a means of achieving their ends, they got their feet under the table when it was time to pull the crackers and put on the paper hats. The rest of us just have to live with it, and no amount of commissions or apologies, convictions or “on the run” letters will change what actually happened.
Whether or not any paratrooper is prosecuted over Bloody Sunday, Peter Hain is right to think that the future of us all matters a lot more than any one particular past.
Christopher Dawes, London W11
Reduce the demand for prostitution
I’m delighted that the UK Parliament’s all-party group on prostitution and the global sex trade is looking at solutions to prostitution which reduce demand (“Target punters, not prostitutes, say MPs”, 3 March). It’s high time Britain addressed the inequality that takes place when men buy women’s bodies for sex.
The notion that prostitution is the “oldest profession” leads some to believe we can do little more than regulate it better – that we should follow the example of Holland and decriminalise. But this leads to increased prostitution levels, normalising the inequalities which sustain the sex industry.
Rather than blanket legalisation we need the more nuanced approach already practised in Sweden. Recent changes in France and Ireland, as well as my report on the subject, which was accepted by the European Parliament last week, suggest the wind is blowing in this direction. Britain must be ambitious enough to follow suit.
Mary Honeyball, MEP, (Lab, London), London W9
Give us more light in spring
If the Coalition is serious about green issues it can make an immediate saving of UK energy consumption by bringing forward the move to British Summer Time (BST) by four weeks.
The annual move to GMT in late October is approximately five weeks after the autumn equinox, while the reversion to BST is more than a week after the spring equinox. Even if successive governments have resisted shifting to Central European Time because of concerns about Scottish crofters, they have the opportunity to demonstrate their green credentials by changing the clocks in late February to provide an extra hour of daylight for an additional month in spring.
David Bracey, Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire
Spokesperson won’t speak
A GCHQ spokeswoman responded to the latest creepy revelation about their work, that they hoovered up webcam images of millions of people: “We’re not commenting on anything.”
Given that the public debt is now over £1.2trn, would it be unreasonable to suggest that sacking such a spokesperson and saving whatever we pay her might provide modest fiscal relief?
Stuart Bonar, Plymouth
Selling off London
For decades villages have been devastated as wealthy people have purchased holiday homes, pricing locals out of the market and destroying the community spirit, culture and language (especially in Wales). It is ironic that the same is now happening in “lights out London” (report, 3 March) as mega-rich foreigners buy up property not as dwellings but for investment.
Mike Stroud, Swansea