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Ministry of Defence

Celebrity-backed petition to stop Nato military exercises in Ukraine censored by government

Campaigners have expressed concern that a government department may be stifling anti-war opinion by holding back a petition submitted to the government's e-petitions web site.

A group of politicians, celebrities and campaigners submitted a petition on the 7 May to highlight the participation of UK and US troops on Ukrainian territory in July as part of Nato’s Rapid Trident manoeuvres. The petition calls on the government to cancel military exercises in the Ukraine which they fear will intensify conflict in the region.

Amongst the signatories are Mark Rylance, Miriam Margolyes OBE, Caroline Lucas MP, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Michael Rosen and Ken Loach.

On 19 May the Office of the Leader of the House of Commons informed the Stop the War Coalition, the organization behind the petition, that the Ministry of Defence was responsible for moderating petitions that dealt with the issues raised in the letter. E-petition guidelines recommend that petitions are moderated within 7 days. Three weeks after it was submitted, the petition remains censored. No explanation has been offered by the Ministry of Defence, despite an intervention from the Leader of the House of Commons'office.

Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War, said "The planned military exercises in the Ukraine in July are a very significant development. There is wide-spread opposition to war in Britain and we expect our petition to receive a lot of support. The government is censoring its own platform for public opposition because it is scared of public opinion."

No to Nato military exercises in Ukraine

We note with great concern that UK and US troops will participate alongside Ukrainian troops in joint military exercises on Ukrainian territory in July as part of Nato’s Rapid Trident manoeuvres. Ukraine is not a member of Nato. Its participation in military exercises by a nuclear-armed alliance with a first-strike policy can only further destabilise the situation in the Ukraine, making it more difficult to achieve a political resolution to the crisis.

The existence since 1997 of the Rapid Trident exercises, their forerunner Peace Shield, and the associated Sea Breeze naval exercises in the Black Sea, make clear that Nato seeks to include Ukraine as part of its eastward expansion which has been taking place since the end of the Cold War.

We call on the UK government to urge the US and other Nato governments to cancel this July's Rapid Trident exercise, and to give a plain and public undertaking that the UK will not participate. We call on the UK government and the Welsh Assembly to make clear that Nato’s expansionist policies are adding to global instability, and urge everyone to join our protests at the 2014 Nato Summit which is due to take place in Newport, Wales, in September.

Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War Coalition
Kate Hudson, general secretary of CND
Caroline Lucas MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Baroness Jenny Tonge
Ken Loach, film and TV director
Mark Rylance, actor
Miriam Margolyes OBE
Michael Rosen, author and broadcaster
Salma Yaqoob, former leader of the Respect Party
Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff for Unite

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