Published: 14:43, 04 March 2022
| Updated: 15:35, 04 March 2022
A Kent twinning association says it plans to maintain relations with a Russian city despite the invasion of Ukraine.
The committee of Canterbury Three Cities Association (CTCA) has condemned Russia's invasion, which it says "calls into question" relations between the twinned cities of Canterbury and Vladimir.
But it adds that severing links with the Russian city now "would be a pointless gesture", and instead plans to maintain communication with Russians who are subject to a "blizzard of misinformation" at the hands of state-controlled media.
CTCA is a "triangular" twinning association that has linked Canterbury with Vladimir – a city east of Moscow – and Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, for 37 years.
Committee members are "appalled by the actions in Ukraine of the Russian government".
"This blatant violation of peace inevitably calls into question our relations in Canterbury with the Russian city of Vladimir and its citizens," they said.
"[CTCA] was formed in 1985 in the Cold War years precisely to foster links between individual citizens of the three different countries at a time when international tension was high, and Russia was still part of the USSR, engaged in the occupation of Afghanistan."
"We believe in building bridges, not blowing them up..."
The association has "no political or religious agenda", aiming instead to "promote understanding between citizens".
Since the twinning in 1985, relations between the cities have flourished, with each member taking part in educational and cultural events.
CTCA says that following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it is in a position "to maintain a useful, regular dialogue with our friends in Russia, who are suffering from exposure to the blizzard of misinformation appearing in the Russian state-controlled media".
"We are determined to keep channels of communication open," said the committee.
"We hope to stay closely in touch with ordinary teachers, lecturers and accountants in Vladimir through this awful period, to remind us all of the human values we hold so dear.
"We are aware that difficult decisions are being made in cities across the UK, as we play a leading role in the UK–Russia Twin Towns Foundation.
"Coventry, the original British city to reach out a hand of friendship to post-war Stalingrad - now known as Volgograd - is determined to retain its long-term links with their partner.
"Plymouth, twinned with the Black Sea port of Novorossiysk, is of a similar opinion; as is Oxford, twinned with Perm.
"Alongside our counterparts in Bloomington-Normal, we see no reason that our personal friendships should be damaged by the appalling tragedy unfolding in Ukraine.
"We believe that to sever links with Vladimir now would be a pointless gesture, of no help whatever to the beleaguered people of Ukraine.
"It would be like giving up the teaching of Russian, which also helps to enable better communication across geographical, cultural and political borders.
"We believe in building bridges, not blowing them up. If suddenly broken, our close links and channels of communication would sadly become well nigh impossible to re-establish, to the detriment of all parties.
"In the meantime our thoughts remain with the courageous people of Ukraine.
"We emphatically support them and are working on practical ways in which we can help them in their struggle.
"We also bear in mind that the lives of many Russians, including those of our friends, will be severely impacted by economic sanctions, and by the increasingly strict internal measures imposed by the Russian government."