Zelensky criticised for banning political rivals attending UK party conferences

Moment when Zelensky and wife meets President Joe Biden

President Zelensky is facing calls to end a ban on political rivals from attending the UK party conferences in their efforts to help with the war effort.

The ban has been put in place for Ukraine politicians covering almost all political events outside Ukraine.

The issue has been raised by Ukraine MP Oleksi Goncharenko who is being prevented from attending the Conservative Party conference in Manchester.

Goncharenko has become a well known face around the world promoting his country’s war effort, even raising money for an artillery piece to fight the Russians.

But the ban has officially been put in place to prevent misinformation being speread by the Russians.

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However, it is claimed that politicians are only banned from leaving Ukraine if they are part of an opposition party.

Mr Goncharenko is hoping to attend the Labour Party conference but only because he is a member of the Council of Europe which has a meeting that week and Ukraine does not restrict visits to its gatherings.

Conservative MP Ian Liddell-Grainger, chairman of the European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance in the Council of Europe, said: “Oleksi Goncharenko and any other Ukrainian opposition parliamentarians who are part of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe must not be banned from participating

“Banning them from participating is in complete contradiction to the founding principles of the Council of Europe – human rights, democracy and the rule of law – to which the Ukraine is a signatory and in fact, it’s the Ukrainian Parliament’s obligation under Council of Europe rules to facilitate their MP’s attending official PACE events.”

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He went on: “In this particular case Oleksi was representing our political group at the Speakers’ conference, so by blocking him from attending, we were not represented.

“I urge the Ukraine Government to ensure that all politicians – regardless of whether they are members of the ruling party or the opposition – are treated equally. In fact, the Speaker should just apply the Ukrainian law on the Status of an MP, which says that the powers of a People’s Deputy and their constitutional rights and freedoms cannot be limited during the martial law.”

There has also been concern about the treatment of the media in Ukraine as the tensions created by war brought on by Putin’s Russian invasion have increased.

Recently, Dumskaya.net was raided and investigated under the premise of an investigation against “one of the deputies of the Odesan Regional Council.”

Mr Goncharenko said: “It is wrong that the [Ukraine] government is using the war against the Russian invaders to clamp down on legitimate opposition parties.

“Opening spurious criminal investigations into popular news outlets is the kind of activity common in Russia, not Ukraine.

“Preventing the freedom of travel for opposition politicians while giving special benefits to his cronies is something normal in Putin’s dictatorship. It must not be part of our system.

“President Zelensky needs to stop eroding the foundations of our Ukrainian democracy. Democracy is what differentiates us from Russia.

“Ukrainians are fighting for our future and our democratic rights against Russia.

“I worry that if the President continues this path, our democracy will be in danger.”

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