Brookes' Expert on current Ukraine Crisis Friday, 07 February 2014 Last Thursday, Dr Sarah Whitmore, Oxford Brookes University was invited to brief Her Majesty's Ambassador to Ukraine, Simon Smith, on the escalating political crisis in Ukraine. Sarah, a Senior Lecturer in Politics, attended the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to discuss with Simon Smith how the UK and the EU can best promote free and fair elections in Ukraine. The Ambassador was on a 2-day visit to the UK to attend a round-table discussion with experts and FCO analysts. On my seventh such invitation, I attended a discussion with the Ambassador along with Dr Kataryna Wolczuk, University of Birmingham, Orysia Lutsevich, Chatham House (home of the Royal Institute of International Affairs) and Dame Audrey Glover, OSCE (Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe). Dr Sarah Whitmore’s research focuses on the significance of political institutions in structuring and reproducing power in post-Soviet states, with a particular focus on Ukraine and Russia. Her current research project examines the meanings of disruptive protests in Ukraine's parliament. She has given briefings to the FCO and the US Department of State on Ukrainian politics, as well as giving regular media interviews. The political crisis in Ukraine is the most serious challenge facing Europe now. We are now in the third month of deadlock between anti-regime protesters and President Yanukovych, whose actions prompted the protests, and there is no sign of a resolution. The Ambassador was interested to discuss the treatment of protesters, the current and prospective actions of the president and his closest supporters and how the EU could promote free and fair elections. Dr Sarah Whitmore offers her perspective saying; …repressive actions have increased, including kidnappings and torture, while the concessions offered have been minimal and aimed at sowing discord among the protesters. At the same time, there are steps available to the EU against those responsible for illegal actions, but the EU needs to seek to restrain Russian involvement and come up with meaningful and substantial support for Ukraine to help offset Russian punitive measures. Since the briefing; …negotiations between the president and opposition have collapsed, the EU has begun to talk publicly about support and even the potential of membership for Ukraine, while the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for member states to impose sanctions, but Russian rhetoric has also escalated, so a peaceful resolution seems as far away as ever at this point. Sarah began her career as a teacher and taught in Kyiv, Ukraine's capital between 1994-96. There she learned Russian, which led on to her specialising in Ukrainian politics for her PhD and learning Ukrainian.