Coventry council chief defends peace trip to Russia after nerve agent attack - The Coventry Observer

11th Aug, 2022

Coventry council chief defends peace trip to Russia after nerve agent attack

Felix Nobes 3rd Oct, 2018 Updated: 3rd Oct, 2018

A COVENTRY councillor has defended a controversial trip to Russia in the wake of the Salisbury nerve agent attack – calling on critics to ‘check the facts’.

The council says Coventry has been invited by its twinned city Volgograd to attend an international peace forum at the end of the month.

It says the summit is intended to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the connection between the cities – the first two cities in the world to become twins.

As we reported on Monday, Conservative group leader Gary Ridley slammed the ‘extravagant’ trip – which will cost more than £2,000 – as a waste of taxpayers’ money.

He questioned why three councillors were needed to attend the trip, while recognising the importance of Coventry’s role in international peace.

But Labour finance cabinet member John Mutton said the visit is part of the historic relationship between Coventry and Volgograd.

He said: “If Coun Ridley had bothered to check the facts before speaking in the way that he did, he would have found out that Volgograd are paying for most of the cost and the three Labour councillors are also paying towards some of the cost.

“I have been invited as part of an important event to continue to enhance the relationship between our two great cities.

“The friendship between the two cities inspires others around the world and it is only right that we should acknowledge and respond to their invitation, and this visit will reinforce our longstanding links.

“What Coun Ridley will be aware of is that over the years, both Coventry and Volgograd have worked tirelessly to show other’s the way towards peace.

“Both had terrible experiences during the Second World War.

“The people of Volgograd have never forgotten how the City of Coventry sent supplies and medicine to the city in their darkest hours and how the women of Coventry sent messages of support embroidered on a table cloth which is still on display in their museum.

“I have been invited to work with Volgograd on planning the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of our twinning with Volgograd, the first two cities in the world to formally twin and it was this relationship that led to the twinning movement.

“A fact that both the European Parliament and United Nations believe has helped to promote peace between European countries.

“Couns Abdul Khan and Pervez Akhtar have been invited to speak at the 29th General Assembly of the International Association of Peace Messenger Cities, which I want to stress is an important honour.”

Coun Ridley also questioned its timing after the alleged attempted murder of a British citizen in a nerve agent attack in Salisbury – a crime which the UK government has attributed to two suspected Russian military intelligence agents.

He claimed the councillors will be treated to a ‘lavish hospitality package’.

A council document to cabinet outlined the costs to the local authority as £727 per person – this includes flights costing £417, VISAs £110 and currency £200.

The three councillors will fund two nights’ B&B accommodation in Moscow and airport transfers.

The city of Volgograd will provide accommodation, meals and transport.

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