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Nigel Baker

Ambassador to the Holy See (2011-2016)

Part of UK in Holy See

17th March 2014

Russia defies the Pope, and the world, on Ukraine

When Pope Francis spoke about Ukraine at the Sunday Angelus on 2 March, he called for all Ukrainians to overcome misunderstandings and to build the future of the nation together and made “a heartfelt appeal to the international community to support every initiative on behalf of dialogue and concord”.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague

Regrettably, there is one country in the international community that appears to have no intention of promoting dialogue and concord. That country, Russia, has just promoted a referendum in the Crimea – part of Ukraine – in breach of the Ukrainian constitution and in defiance of calls by the international community for restraint. As the Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said after the referendum took place: “The United Kingdom in common with the rest of the European Union will not recognise the Crimea referendum as legal or legitimate or meaningful.

Any referendum that is called at a matter of days notice, has no proper campaigning, no access to the leaders of the country, the presence of tens of thousands of troops, is never going to enjoy credibility in the eyes of the great majority of the rest of the world”. It was a mockery of proper democratic practice, and it is no surprise that Russia was isolated at the UN Security Council on 15 March, with all members calling for Ukraine’s territorial integrity to be preserved.

What we have seen happening in the Ukraine in recent days is indefensible. Russia alone backs the referendum. Russia alone has been prepared to violate international law, disregard the UN charter, and tear up its bilateral treaties. First hand reports from the Maidan in Kiev from priests, religious and representatives of different churches have attested to the hope and prayers of especially young Ukrainians for a peaceful, democratic and independent future for their country, decided by Ukrainians not outsiders. These aspirations to chart their own future are being frustrated by a neighbouring country that appears to have little interest in dialogue or concord.

The Holy See believes in the rule of law. I am sure we shall hear more from them in the next few days. The UK, like other countries, will continue to work for a diplomatic breakthrough with Russia. The future of Ukraine must be for the Ukrainians themselves to build, as Pope Francis has said. That can be the only way forward for all who believe in the values of law, justice and democracy.

About Nigel Baker

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as…

Nigel was British Ambassador to the Holy See from 2011-2016. He presented his Credentials to Pope Benedict XVI on 9 September 2011, after serving 8 years in Latin America, as Deputy Head of Mission in the British Embassy in Havana, Cuba (2003-6) and then as British Ambassador in La Paz, Bolivia (2007-11). In July 2016, Nigel finished his posting, and is currently back in London.

As the first British Ambassador to the Holy See ever to have a blog, Nigel provided a regular window on what the Embassy and the Ambassador does. The blogs covered a wide range of issues, from Royal and Ministerial visits to Diplomacy and Faith, freedom of religion, human trafficking and climate change.

More on Nigel’s career

Nigel was based in London between 1998 and 2003. He spent two years on European Union issues (for the UK 1998 EU Presidency and on European Security and Defence questions), before crossing St James’s Park to work for three years as The Assistant Private Secretary to His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales. At St James’s Palace, Nigel worked on international issues, including the management of The Prince of Wales’s overseas visits and tours, on the Commonwealth, interfaith issues, the arts and international development.

Nigel spent much of the early part of his FCO career in Central Europe, after an initial stint as Desk Officer for the Maghreb countries in the Near East and North Africa department (1990-91). Between 1992 and 1996, Nigel served in the British embassies in Prague and Bratislava, the latter being created in 1993 after the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into the separate Czech and Slovak Republics.

Nigel joined the FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) in September 1989. Between 1996 and 1998 he took a two year academic sabbatical to research and write about themes in 18th century European history, being based in Verona but also researching in Cambridge, Paris and Naples. The research followed from Nigel’s time as a student at Cambridge (1985-88) where he read history and was awarded a First Class Honours degree, followed by his MA in 1992.

Before joining the Foreign Office, Nigel worked briefly for the Conservative Research Department in London at the time of the 1989 European election campaign.

Nigel married Alexandra (Sasha) in 1997. They have one son, Benjamin, born in Bolivia in September 2008.

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