Councillors have said that Glasgow should consider cutting ties with its twin city Rostov-on-Don, Russia over the crisis in Eastern Ukraine and over LGBTI rights.
Glasgow City Council SNP members said the town was used as the last post by the pro-Russian separatists and gangsters involved in the conflict, asking if the Lord Provost had raised any concerns with Russian authorities.
Rostov-on-Don has been twinned with Glasgow since the Soviet era, is a few dozen miles from Ukraine’s border and has a heavy Russian military presence.
This comes as the ceasefire in the east of Ukraine comes under pressure days after international powers agreed it and shortly after council officials visited Rostov-on-Don.
During a council meeting, SNP councillor John McLaughlin, asked Lord Provost Sadie Docherty to contact authorities in Rostov-on-Don “to ask them to urge leaders of the Russian Federation to do all in their power to uphold and honour the ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine and to end the humanitarian tragedy here”.
After a promise the Lord Provost would, Mr McLaughlin said if the Russian Federation fail to uphold its part in the agreed ceasefire and “bearing in mind that Rostov-on-Don is the last staging post for the supply of weapons” used by pro-Russian forces would she consider reviewing the relationship.
Mrs Docherty said she will hold discussions with officials before sending a letter to her counterpart in Rostov-on-Don.
This is the second time in 18 months Glasgow and Rostov-on-Don’s relationship has been queried, with Mrs Docherty facing criticism for failing to and then later condemning authorities over Moscow’s legislation curbing LGBTI rights.
Glasgow’s other twin cities have been questioned in recent times. The city has formal relationships with Chinese city, Dalian and Cuban capital Havana, both with questionable human rights records.
Susan Aitken, leader of the Glasgow council SNP group, told KaleidoScot: “The SNP group has a long record of asking the Council to make its voice heard on international issues where our twinning links give us a direct interest.
“We value the international reach and perspective our twin cities bring to the Council, but we also believe those links give us a responsibility to speak out when necessary – whether that was to offer our solidarity to LGBTI people in Rostov-on-Don suffering attacks on their human rights and civil liberties, or to the people of Bethlehem whose fellow Palestinian civilians were suffering during the bombardment of Gaza.
“Where the national government of one of the twin cities behaves in a way that flagrantly breaches accepted international standards – as with President Putin’s actions in Ukraine in recent months – then the Council really can’t simply stand by and remain silent.
“We wouldn’t take the step of ending a twinning arrangement lightly, but it’s an option that has to remain open as a way of expressing the deep concerns of Glaswegians.”
Speaking to KaleidoScot, SNP councillor Feargal Dalton said “as a last staging area for the Russian federation in any military incursion into Ukraine the questions were asked so as to exercise any bit of influence Glasgow has in supporting peace in this part of the world”.
He added “this is not the first time Glasgow SNP have questioned our twinning with this city. It was previously queried when Russia introduced its anti-LGBTI laws”.
Out gay SNP Councillor, Austin Sheridan, commented to KaleidoScot: “I am fully supportive, as are the rest of the SNP group on the council, of John McLaughlin’s calls for the twinning arrangements to be examined.”
James Dornan, MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, told KaleidoScot “Glasgow/Lord Provost has a responsibility to ensure that Glasgow’s twin cities behave responsibly towards all sectors of their society including of course LGBTI people”.