AN SNP MP has become the first Scottish politician ever to be awarded the Ukrainian Order of Merit – in recognition of his work promoting relations between Scotland and Ukraine.

Stewart McDonald was one of 24 foreign nationals to be given the Order of Merit – which is the highest state order in Ukraine – this year, with a ceremony to be held in London to present the medals.

he said: “It is a real honour to receive the Order of Merit from the President of Ukraine on their independence day, and I am grateful for the opportunity to build on the strong bonds between Scotland and the people of Ukraine.

“Last year, along with other SNP colleagues, I visited Eastern Ukraine and saw first-hand the impact of the war there on the communities in the Donbas region.

“Since then, I have met several times with politicians, civil society activists and others to help strengthen Ukraine’s democracy and liberalise on issues such as human rights, transparency and much else.”

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McDonald also joined LGBT activists at this year’s Kyiv Pride event and met with a variety of people who are working on expanding civil rights in Ukraine.

He commented: “They do extraordinary work under difficult circumstances and they are unquestionably a huge source of inspiration to others seeking to advance civil rights in the region of Eastern Europe.

“Scotland, of course, has a very active Ukrainian community that has been at home here for many years. Ukrainians in Scotland continue to contribute to our nation’s culture and economy, and we are the better for their contribution.

“I look forward to building on the relationship that we have developed as Ukraine’s new parliament and president set about their reform agenda to deliver peace for the nation, not least those in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.”