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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

UK government announces aid package to help Ukraine combat Russian 'disinformation'

Meanwhile, some European leaders have expressed unease at the pace of reforms in Ukraine

Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers a speech during the second international Ukraine Reform Conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Wednesday. Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix via AP
Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson delivers a speech during the second international Ukraine Reform Conference, in Copenhagen, Denmark, on Wednesday. Martin Sylvest/Ritzau Scanpix via AP

The British government on Wednesday allocated £35 million to support Ukraine. Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, said the money was intended to speed up reforms and strengthen its security.

“With Russia continuing its efforts to destabilise Ukraine, and the occupation of Crimea ongoing, Britain must help to lead the way on ensuring Ukraine has a bright, stable and prosperous future”, he said.

Mr Johnson was in Copenhagen to attend the Ukraine Reform Conference – a joint endeavour of the UK, which hosted the inaugural summit in London, Denmark and Canada.

The aid will be spent on a range of projects: £5 million will be directed to help the Ukrainian government combat Russian “disinformation” campaigns.

Western capitals accuse Russia’s spy agency, GRU, of directing a propaganda offensive against the government of Ukraine and pro-western elements within it, and the fund is intended to counter Moscow.

Some £11 million will be channelled through the Good Governance Fund to support programmes designed to help Ukraine improve governance and intensify economic and political reform. Key institutions such as the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Business Ombudsman are expected to benefit from this grant.

Humanitarian aid projects will be given £6 million, while £13 million is earmarked for initiatives to bolster security, encourage defence reform, promote peace-building and further civilian oversight to reduce corruption.

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“We do all this because it is essential for Ukraine’s future security and prosperity, and because it is essential for upholding our European values, our security and our prosperity”, Mr Johnson said.

The UK’s assistance comes a month after the US allotted $250 million in military assistance to Ukraine in its draft defence budget for 2019. Experts say Russia is ramping its covert activities in Ukraine as the country prepares to hold presidential elections next year.

A joint communiqué by the representatives of the UK, Canada, and Denmark pledged to “constrain the Russian government’s ability to use disinformation in Ukraine and elsewhere, to spread malware while posing as cyber criminals, to sow discord in our societies and to engender public distrust in our democratic institutions”.

Denmark’s prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen, who is hosting this year’s summit, called on Ukraine to speed up reforms, which he said were “moving forward a snail’s pace”. He told his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Groysman, that reforms would be “Ukraine’s ticket to freedom and long term stability”. Canada will host the third Ukraine Reform Conference next year.