Letters: Stay out of Ukraine’s family squabble

These letters appear in the Tuesday 25th February edition of the Independent

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Attempting to “liberate’ Ukraine may be high-minded of the EU, but questions arise.

Are there any geographical limits to an expanding EU? Include Armenia, Georgia and Turkey, and the EU would border Chechnya, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Should Kiev’s young be encouraged to believe that the accord on the free movement of peoples will remain a bedrock principle of the EU? It has, after all, just been given the thumbs-down by the Swiss.

Is it wise of the EU to entice Ukrainians into abandoning their economic dependence on Russia without offering transitional aid? Do we want a basket-case on our hands? Will the EU’s taxpayers consent to bailing out Ukraine?

Since when has it been in the West’s interest to encourage the violent overthrow of a democratically elected government?

Yugo Kovach, Winterborne Houghton, Dorset

It was my great good fortune a few years ago to travel by boat down the Dnieper from Kiev to the Black Sea, and it was evident that Kiev was not representative of the rest of the country.

The current unrest in Kiev is at best a family squabble – egged on and encouraged by us (and for what?) We should stop making mischief and leave the family Rus to resolve their own problems.

Tom Palin, Southport, Merseyside

The media is now grudgingly admitting that the neo-Nazi Svoboda and Right Sector parties played a part in the recent uprising in Kiev. That’s all been downplayed because the rebels are after “greater European integration”. But Europe also contains the likes of the Front National, the Golden Dawn and Jobbik. Is that the “Europe” Ukraine wants to “integrate” with?

Revolutions are indeed the locomotive of history, but not all locomotives are going forward.

Sasha Simic, London N16

The east of the Ukraine, around Donetsk and Kharkiv (Kharkov), used to be the heavy-industrial heartland of the Soviet Union. I simply cannot see Moscow surrendering it to “the West”.

John Whitehead, London EC2

What a contrast! In Ukraine we see citizen combatants, wearing European colours, going to fight and die for the chance to join the Community. In the UK we see purblind zealots and taproom wiseacres sparing no effort to compromise our future by trying to pull us out of the Community.

Steve Ford, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland

Bishops speak out on poverty

As an atheist, I was astonished at your attack on the churches for speaking out about the growing problems of poverty and destitution in this country (editorial, 22 February). They see it at first hand.

Our local church is the receiving depot for food donated to the food banks. Crisis at Christmas and Shelter are both church initiatives. The problem is growing at such a rate that you should be running your own campaign to highlight it, not colluding with this government to pretend it isn’t happening.

Susan Knight, Penarth, South Glamorgan

I would be surprised if bishops thought they had “a divine right to be heard” on the Government’s welfare policies. What I expect they do believe is that they have a duty to speak. Whether or not they are heard is largely a matter for you and your colleagues in the media,

Dr Robin Orton, London SE26

At a time when commentators and political leaders are bemoaning the apathy and lack of interest in British politics, the intervention of the bishops should be applauded. Is your editorial an example of otherwise liberal and rational minds turning feral when the critique comes from a quarter they do not like?

Canon Paul Denyer, Bristol

Whenever all the experts are in agreement on some controversial issue one can rest assured that whatever opinion or solution they proffer is almost certainly wrong.

The day a letter from the academic establishment was published claiming that Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies were ruining the country, the economy turned round.

No sooner had “every scientist in the world” agreed – some 15 years ago – that global warming was out of control than the warming stopped, and has yet to restart.

Now we have serried ranks of Christian bishops alleging that the Government’s welfare reforms have precipitated a “national crisis” of starvation and homelessness. Ian Duncan Smith should take heart because their dodgy “facts” are less troubling than their belief that leaving generations languishing on benefits is a moral policy.

Rev Dr John Cameron, St Andrews

My loyalty to The Independent was sorely tested by the editorial but is bolstered by Andreas Whittam Smith’s 20 February article supporting the right of priests to speak out about the plight of our poorest citizens.

It is the duty of all who see hardship and suffering to speak out and try to do what they can to help  – and the Church has as much right as anyone to shout loudly.

Jane Cowan, York

Your editorial fell into the trap of equating a plea for the poor with making a political case. If the Government can be shown to have caused extremes of distress and poverty by its new policies, then it is the duty of the church leaders to speak out. They would be in dereliction of their duty not to speak up for the poor.

If by doing so, they point the finger at a government policy then so be it, but they nowhere advocated a party policy as such.

Anthony D Wood, Liskeard, Cornwall

If church leaders feel compelled to enter the debate about benefits (a political issue) rather than poverty (a moral issue), I think they should broaden their shoulders and try to “own” the whole problem. For example, can we have their views on, how, as a society, we generate the wealth required to sustain 1.1 million households in which nobody works?

M R Battersby, Gosport, Hampshire

Bus services need to be paid for

The key role of London’s transport network is supporting the growth and development of the city it serves (“Public transport should be an asset, not a penalty, for developers” 21 February). The development of the Docklands, Stratford and our proposed extension of the Northern Line  to Battersea are testament  to that.

But supporting new housing schemes, like the 3,000-home development alluded to in your article, costs money. That development, in south-east London, has been made possible by the construction of a new London Overground station. But future residents will also need bus services. Every additional bus mile is a net cost, and every bus route needs staffing and support. Given the pressure on our funding we are simply unable to just put on more service without developer contributions.

With those contributions we can provide the services necessary to support their developments, they can prosper and their residents can access the type of successful transport services they expect.

Sir Peter Hendy, London’s Transport Commissioner, London SW1

NHS data-sharing: more facts, please

Those like me who oppose personal health data being made more widely available are accused of scare-mongering.

The principle here is that of informed consent. If I had been informed in a clear and open fashion about how my information could be used and what uses will not be permitted, perhaps I would be more likely to agree to sharing my data.

It is not as if research has been impossible without access to this data. Gathering data by individual surveys, which means that data subjects are fully aware of how the data will be used, is far preferable to open access to national data sets.

Pete Rowberry, Saxmundham, Suffolk

Wrong side of the Mersey

Sadly, I note that Birkenhead has crossed the Mersey into Lancashire (“Where have all my neighbours gone?”, 22 February). Birkenhead, on Wirral peninsula, my home town and the constituency of Frank Field, our most respected MP, was for hundreds of years in Cheshire. Then someone decided without consulting the 500,000 folk effected, to call Wirral, and of course Birkenhead, Merseyside. But never, ever, Lancashire.

T C Bell, Penrith, Cumbria

Who sanctioned this strange usage?

I’ve always thought that “sanctions” meant approval. That aside, it’s a word used when a country imposes financial, trade or political punishments on a recalcitrant, immoral or war-torn country far away. Why did someone in government choose the word “sanctions” to mean the withdrawal of benefit payments from British citizens?

Tim Cleal, Coventry

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