Boycott the corrupt officials but please don?t isolate the people of Ukraine

This is a statement by the Director of the Ukrainian Institute in London, based on his comments made to BBC Radio 5 Live on the opening day of Euro 2012 regarding the decision of UK Ministers not to attend the opening group matches to be played in Ukraine

Euro 2012 kicks off today. I remember that day in April 2007 when, at the UEFA draw in Cardiff, Poland and Ukraine were chosen as host nations of Europe’s greatest festival of football. In Ukraine there was euphoria and delight that the country had been selected to co-host the finals. There was a great buzz and energy among the people and a feeling that the country would move towards becoming a proud member of the family of European nations.

Five years on, Ukraine has, sadly, rolled downhill on a number of serious issues. Yesterday, the Foreign & Commonwealth office confirmed that no UK ministers will be attending group games at Euro 2012 due to widespread concerns about selective justice and the rule of law in Ukraine.

We respect the decision made by the UK Government and fully concur with the concerns raised.

Due to the greed and sleaze of a handful of corrupt Ukrainian officials, the perception of the country has been turned into something dreadful, forcing European leaders to stay clear of the place. The vast majority of Ukrainians, both in Ukraine and here in the UK, share the distrust and frustration expressed by a number of European Governments.

However, the Foreign and Commonwealth office has stated that they’re keeping under review the possibility of attending the later stages of the tournament.

 We invite and encourage UK ministers to travel to Ukraine for the later stages of the tournament and sit in the stands together with the fans, not up in the executive boxes with the corrupt officials. This will send a clear message that the UK has not abandoned the people of Ukraine and will let the corrupt Ukrainian officials know that they are the ones being targeted, not the innocent people of Ukraine. Ukrainians look forward to welcoming the guests and together celebrating Europe’s greatest footballing event.