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Sian MacLeod

Sian MacLeod

UK Ambassador to Serbia

Part of Russia's invasion of Ukraine UK in Serbia

20th February 2023 Belgrade, Serbia

Ukraine one year on: look back in anger

Kurir OpEd - 22 Feb 2023

On 24 February 2022 the world watched with horror and disbelief as Vladimir Putin launched a full scale, illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.

One year on that horror and disbelief is mixed with anger and sorrow. At the senseless loss of tens of thousands of lives – Ukrainian and Russian. At the callous disregard for the impact upon food supplies for millions, including some of the world’s poorest people.  At the wanton destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, civilian infrastructure, even churches and Holocaust memorials. At the mass cruelty and extreme brutality of some of the forces acting in Putin’s name.  At the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children and the looting of property and cultural heritage.

In other words, at the litany of war crimes.

At the same time we have seen lies and industrial levels of disinformation – much of it aimed at a Russian population unable to whisper the ‘war’ without fear of arrest.  We have seen desperate ranting by Russian state television commentators trying to justify unjustifiable and explain the inexplicable.

Vladimir Putin promised his country a three day ‘Special Military Operation’ to remove a non-existent threat and to ‘de-nazify’ an independent state with a democratically elected (and, incidentally, Jewish) leader that he didn’t happen to like.

Putin miscalculated badly. He knows that. That is why he keeps changing his narrative and rearranging his military command. It is why he conscripted the generation upon which his country’s future depends.  It is why he has turned to criminal paramilitaries recruited in prisons.

Rather than stopping the madness to save Russian and Ukrainian lives he continues to plunge his country further into this abyss.

We salute those people in Russia who have bravely and publicly opposed Putin’s war.  This war is also a disaster for their country.  It has had a devastating impact upon Russia’s military, its economy and its reputation. Repairing the damage and restoring any level of normality to Russia’s international relations or the everyday lives of its citizens could take generations.

But it is the Ukrainian people who are facing the greatest suffering and are in greatest need of help.

That is why countries, including Serbia, are supporting refugees from Ukraine and providing help for medical and energy services.  It is why many countries including ours are providing military equipment to help Ukraine defend itself, as is its right under international law. It is why virtually all European states and other major international partners, have imposed sanctions to weaken the Kremlin’s ability to wage this senseless war.

In January, on Holocaust Memorial Day, we commemorated the victims of mass repression during the Second World War, recalling how the world said ‘never again’.  No corner of Europe knows better than the Western Balkans though the legacy of more recent conflict that continues to blight lives.  Now once again, in Vladimir Putin’s barbaric and illegal war, in the twenty first century, on the European continent, we see the depths of man’s inhumanity to man.

We look back on the past year in sorrow and in anger. We appeal to all those who abhor suffering and destruction, want peace and security in Europe, or care for the Ukrainian and Russian peoples, including those who serve or can influence the Russian state.  We call on them to do all within their power to persuade the Kremlin to remove its forces from Ukraine and to end this appalling war, so the people of both countries can live in peace and start to rebuild their futures.

This joint article by Ambassadors Giles Norman (Canada), Jørn Eugene Gjelstad (Norway), Rafal Perl (Poland) and Sian MacLeod (UK) first appeared in Serbian daily Kurir on 20 February 2023.

About Sian MacLeod

Sian Macleod was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia in September 2019. Prior to this, Sian was Ambassador and Head of the UK Delegation to the Organization…

Sian Macleod was appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Serbia in September 2019. Prior to this, Sian was Ambassador and Head of the UK Delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Sian joined the FCO in 1986. Her first posting was to Moscow. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, she served briefly in the Embassy in Vilnius. Since then she has been posted to The Hague, returned to Moscow 2004-7, where she became Minister (Deputy Head of Mission). Between overseas postings she has worked in the FCO and the Cabinet Office.

Sian was Ambassador in Prague from 2009 to 2013 and then Director of the British Council Triennial Review and FCO Additional Director for the Eastern European & Central Asian Directorate.

Sian is married to Richard Robinson and they have three children and enjoy music, cycling and cross-country skiing.

Before joining the FCO she studied music at the Winchester School of Art and the Royal Academy of Music.