Farage: EU has blood on its hands

2014-03-27 21:16
(Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

(Nicholas Kamm, AFP)

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London - British eurosceptic leader Nigel Farage on Thursday accused the EU of having "blood on its hands" by backing uprisings in Ukraine and Syria.

The UK Independence Party chief faced criticism in Britain for his comments, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying Farage was siding with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Farage first raised the issue in a televised debate with Clegg on Wednesday.

He said Britain had encouraged the 28-member bloc to pursue an "imperialist, expansionist" agenda in Ukraine, which had led to the uprising in Kiev and Russia's absorption of Crimea earlier this month.

"We should hang our heads in shame," Farage said in the debate, the first of two with Clegg focusing on Britain's relationship with Europe.

"We have given a false series of hopes to a group of people in the western Ukraine and so geed up were they that they actually toppled their own elected leader.

"That provoked Mr Putin and I think the European Union, frankly, does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine."

Farage refused to back down after the debate, following up his comments with a statement on Thursday saying the EU had also worsened the situation in Syria through "vanity".

"It is not just the Ukraine. The civil war in Syria was made worse by EU leaders stoking the expectation of western forces helping to topple the Assad dictatorship despite the increasing dominance of militant Islamists in the rebellion," he said.

Farage said in his statement that he did "not support what Putin has done -- of course I don't" but added: "If you poke the Russian bear with a stick he will respond."

'Siding with Putin'

Russia has been hit by US and EU sanctions after its absorption of Crimea, just weeks after protesters toppled president Viktor Yanukovych for suspending talks on a historic trade and political pact with the EU.

Moscow has also backed President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, where more than 146 000 people have been killed in a three-year civil war.

Clegg, the leader of the Liberal Democrat party which is in coalition with Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservatives, accused Farage of siding with Putin.

"It shows quite how extreme people can be like Nigel Farage when their loathing of the European Union becomes so all-consuming that they even end up siding with Vladimir Putin in order to make their point," he said in a radio interview earlier Thursday.

Clegg said it was "perverse" and "insulting" to suggest that the uprising in Ukraine was the EU's fault.

"For Nigel Farage to side with Vladimir Putin, he will have to explain why he did so. I was astounded. It was in many ways the most striking, if not shocking, new revelation that came to light" in the debate, he added.

Neither Cameron - who has promised a referendum on EU membership in 2017 if he is elected next year - nor opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband took part in the televised debate.

A YouGov poll of 1 003 people published immediately after the debate showed that 57% thought Farage had performed better, compared to 36% for Clegg.

Farage's party is expected to make large gains in elections for the European Parliament on 22 May, while Clegg's is expected to fare badly.

Read more on:    eu  |  russia  |  ukraine

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