(Reuters) – Britain’s political establishment accused the leader of the country’s anti-EU party on Thursday of being an apologist for Russia and its seizure of Crimea, going on the offensive after he bettered the deputy prime minister in a debate on Europe.
Nigel Farage, the head of Britain’s UK Independence Party (UKIP), lambasted the European Union over its handling of Ukraine in the debate on Wednesday evening, saying the bloc had provoked Russia into taking action and had “blood on its hands”.
“We should hang our heads in shame,” Farage, whose party is forecast to poll strongly in elections to the European Parliament in May, said during an LBC radio debate with Nick Clegg, Britain’s deputy prime minister.
“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 (Russian President Vladimir) Putin and I think the European Union, frankly, does have blood on its hands in the Ukraine”.
All three of Britain’s mainstream political parties have been rattled by UKIP’s success in local elections and in opinion polls ahead of European elections in May and a national election in 2015, though UKIP has no seats in the British parliament.
In the wake of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region, public concern about Russia has increased, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Even so, when given the choice, more describe Russia as a serious problem but not an adversary (43%) than say it represents an adversary (26%). Just 22% say Russia is not much of a problem.
Since last November, the percentage viewing Russia as an adversary has risen eight points (from 18%) while the share saying it is a serious problem has increased seven points (from 36%). The number of Americans who do not think of Russia as much of a problem has fallen by almost half – from 40% then to 22% today.
Most of the increase in the view that Russia is an adversary has come among Republicans. Currently, 42% of Republicans describe Russia as an adversary, up from 24% four months ago. Just 23% of independents and 19% of Democrats view Russia as an adversary, little changed from November. But increasing numbers of Democrats and independents describe Russia as at least a serious problem…