Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman praises Putin's 'strong nation state' for intervening in Syria

The eurosceptic parliamentarian said he was 'not Pro-Putin' 

Jon Stone
Wednesday 16 March 2016 11:12
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Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin

A Conservative MEP has praised Russia’s intervention in Syria – arguing that Vladimir Putin’s “strong nation state” has helped to resolve the country’s civil war.

David Campbell Bannerman, a leading eurosceptic, suggested that Mr Putin had stepped up to the challenge in the country while the West “fumbled”.

The Russian government yesterday announced it was withdrawing its forces from Syria, where they have been assisting the Assad regime for five months.

The intervention force has been bombing militant groups hostile to the country’s government, including Isis and other extremists, but also the Western-supported Free Syrian Army.

Crucially, around 2,000 civilians are believed to have been killed by Russian forces, according to estimates by the Violations Documentation Centre and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Mr Bannerman posted a link on Twitter to a BBC News article on Russia’s withdrawal, commenting: “Not pro-Putin, but note how strong nation state, with smaller economy than UK, gets in and sorts [the] issue as [the] West fumbles”.

Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder told the Independent Mr Bannerman's comments were "shameful".

"Russia's brutal intervention in Syria has killed countless innocent civilians and fuelled the refugee crisis," she said.

"It is shameful that anti-EU Tory nationalists are siding with Vladimir Putin instead of with our allies in Europe and the US.

"But it is not surprising seeing as their plan to drag Britain out of Europe would weaken the West and strengthen Putin's hand."

Mr Campbell Bannerman is campaigning to leave the EU, and has argued that the move would allow the UK to “take back control of our country”. He said the EU had “badly handled Russia and is part of the problem”.

Last month Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn however warned that Britain leaving the EU would be seen by Mr Putin as a sign of “weakness”.

“Let's be clear. President Putin would shed no tears if Britain left the European Union,” he said.

“He would see Brexit as a sign of our weakness and of the weakness of European solidarity at the very moment when we need to maintain our collective strength.”

UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, who is mediating talks in the civil war welcomed the Russian withdrawal, arguing it was a “significant development” in the peace process for the country.

US estimates of the number of military personnel Russia has on the ground in the country range from 3,000 to 6,000. The first planes are believed to have left on Tuesday.

Russian aircraft flew more than 9,000 sorties, destroyed 209 oil production and transfer facilities, and helped the Syrian government retake over 400 settlements and 10,000 square kilometres of territory, according to unverified claims by the Russian ministry of defence.

The intervention is widely credited with turning the wide of the civil war in favour of Bashar Al- Assad’s government.

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