COVENTRY City Council has said it will maintain its links with the Russian city of Volgograd.
It comes after a request from the Coventry branch’s of the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB ) plea for the ties to be cut following the invasion by Vladimir Putin a fortnight ago.
But the authority argues the twinning is with the people of Russia and the Volgograd community and not the Russian Government.
In a statement, Coun Abdul Salam Khan, Deputy Leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Ukraine and we call for a swift end to all hostility.
“Coventry has worked as a city of peace and reconciliation for many years, and we will do all we can to help and support the victims of this terrible war.
“Our links with the city of Volgograd helped to start that work for peace. We were the world’s first twins after we reached out to the people of the then Stalingrad during the Second World War after their city had suffered so badly.
“Those links have grown over the years and have benefitted many. Together, we have inspired others to work for peace and there are now twins around the world.
“Our friendship has always been with the people of Volgograd – the faith centres, schools, businesses, organisations and all those who share our desire for peace.
“It has never been a link to the Russian Government and never will be. It is with the people and for the benefit of the people.”
Coun Khan said the authority wanted those links to continue in the years ahead and believed it was the way towards peace.
“We cannot build understanding if we do not talk to one another.
“We know many people in Russia are calling for peace, and we hope our friends in Volgograd are adding their voice to that call.
“Coventry wants the people of Ukraine to know they have our city’s support and friendship and we will strengthen the call for an end to this war and a return to peace.”
The move has been criticised by Coventry Conservative leader Coun Gary Ridley who had joined the calls of the city’s AUGB branch.
He said: “Organisations, countries and brands across the world are severing links with Russia – but NOT Coventry.
“We need to suspend our links with Russia now and show that we stand with Ukraine.”
It came yesterday on the day when talks in Turkey between the Ukrainian and Russian foreign ministers broke down.
Sergey Lavrov would not budge on the conditions that Ukraine must give up its sovereignty and become part of Russia.
His counterpart Dmytro Kuleba said that would be tantamount to surrender.