UK hails Belarus` decision to host Ukraine talks

Britain welcomes Belarus` decision to host international talks on the ongoing Ukraine crisis, but this will not seriously improve Minsk`s relations with the European Union.

Britain welcomes Belarus` decision to host international talks on the ongoing Ukraine crisis, but this will not seriously improve Minsk`s relations with the European Union, UK Ambassador Bruce Bucknell said in an interview with BelaPAN on Thursday.

Speaking hours before a meeting of the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, the diplomat expressed hope that it would yield agreements on access by international experts to the site of the crash of the Malaysian Airlines` Boeing, which was shot down in the Donetsk province in July.

Mr. Bucknell said that 10 UK citizens had been killed in the crash and Britain devoted priority attention to the investigation of the incident.

Although it is yet early to make a categorical judgment, there has been increasingly more evidence that the plane was downed by a missile fired by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, said Mr. Bucknell.

Britain is concerned that OSCE experts` access to the crash site is limited, according to the diplomat. "We are concerned about the possible tampering with and falsification of evidence in the two weeks that have passed since the crash," he said.

It is important that Russian President Vladimir Putin should use his influence on pro-Russian separatists to secure immediate access to the crash site for international experts and not provide the militants with weapons and equipment and military training, said Mr. Bucknell. "It is important that the bodies of the victims should be returned to their families. We have not received all of the bodies so far," he added.

The ambassador disagreed with Belarusian political analysts` predictions that hosting the talks would help Minsk improve its relations with the EU.

"It`s good that Belarus provides a neutral venue for the talks, but we should move cautiously. The conditions for the improvement of relations remain the same," he said.

The EU welcomes the recent release of human rights defender Ales Byalyatski but more political prisoners remain behind bars in Belarus, said Mr. Bucknell. "The state has too much control over civil society, there are the issues of the death penalty and freedom of speech. We hope that there will be an evolution, not a revolution but an evolution. There are areas where the state can work to improve the situation," he said.