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Taiwan should be mindful of lawmakers' overseas trips: Ex-Ukrainian MP

05/22/2024 10:00 PM
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Lilies, which have been used in past student movements, are placed around the Legislative Yuan as a gesture to support lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo May 22, 2024
Lilies, which have been used in past student movements, are placed around the Legislative Yuan as a gesture to support lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party in Taipei Wednesday. CNA photo May 22, 2024

Taipei, May 22 (CNA) The public in Taiwan should be mindful of the overseas trips by their lawmakers and other political figures and the proposals they are making to foreign countries, former Ukrainian parliamentarian Hanna Hopko warned Wednesday.

Hopko, who chaired the Ukrainian Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs from 2014-2019, was one of the panelists at the Global Leaders Forum on Civil Defense and Resilience held by the non-profit civil defense education institution Kuma Academy in Taipei on Wednesday.

In her presentation, Hopko discussed Russia's centuries of expansionism and its infiltration of Ukraine's government and society.

Hopko said there are "similarities" between Ukraine and Taiwan in that they both face a powerful country trying to absorb them.

Former Ukrainian parliamentarian Hanna Hopko (second right). CNA photo May 22, 2024
Former Ukrainian parliamentarian Hanna Hopko (second right). CNA photo May 22, 2024

China has been trying to infiltrate and create rifts in Taiwanese society, just like Russia did before its occupation of Crimea, she added.

She cited as examples former Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlov Lebedev, who "has a Russian passport," and former Commander of the Ukrainian Navy Denis Berezovsky, who defected to Russia and was appointed deputy commander of the Black Sea Fleet shortly after Russia seized Crimea.

Lebedev is wanted by the Ukrainian government on suspicion of criminal activities and desertion for his role in the Ukrainian political crisis in 2014 and potentially in the subsequent annexation of Crimea from Ukraine by Russia that year.

The 2014 Ukrainian political crisis refers to deadly clashes between protesters and state forces in the capital Kyiv, which culminated in the ousting of the then-president.

Hopko said the level of government positions held by Lebedev and Berezovsky led observers to conclude that Russia had a "near-critical mass of agents of influence" whose activities caused a temporary "power paralysis," which despite being insufficient in helping Russia conquer Ukraine, played a role in it seizing Crimea and Sevastopol.

Ukraine made the mistake of not having identified Russia's "hybrid warfare" earlier and now it is forced to pay the price, she said.

Taiwan should therefore be mindful of lawmakers taking overseas trips, particularly to a "neighboring country," just like some Ukrainian politicians traveled to Moscow, Hopko said.

"Where are your politicians traveling? What are they bringing home with them? And what are they advocating for?" Such visits could "split your society," offering enemies an opportunity to "capture your government," she warned.

Another lesson that the Russia-Ukraine war could offer Taiwan is that Taiwan should not expect to "trade" with China and expect change, Hopko said.

She explained that some European countries have sought to work out a compromise with Russia over Moscow's territorial claims and expressed concern about continuing arming Ukraine against Russian forces.

Similarly, some countries sought to engage in trade with China, thinking that would foster its middle class and, in turn, help to democratize it.

"No, actually some Western countries, they feed the beast, and actually they helped the monster grow up. And now, they created the adversary, the enemy, and don't know what to do," Hopko said.

(By Sean Lin)

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