Councillor suspended following Facebook posts supporting Putin's invasion
- Credit: TASS/PA IMAGES/IPSWICH BOROUGH COUNCIL
An Ipswich councillor has been suspended while an investigation is carried out into social media posts apparently backing Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine posted on his account.
Shayne Pooley, a councillor for Gainsborough ward, has been suspended from the Conservative party while an investigation is carried out, a Tory spokesman confirmed. He will continue to sit as a councillor.
The posts, sent from Mr Pooley's account, contain Russian propaganda and conspiracy theories about the invasion of Ukraine.
This newspaper has seen a screenshot of one post which includes a snippet of an online news story along with a comment from Mr Pooley's account stating that "Putin just wants to give the people of Ukraine independence, it's what they want. The media are nothing but blatant liars".
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has previously challenged this claim, saying “you are told that this blaze will bring freedom to the people of Ukraine, but the Ukrainian people are free”.
A further post this newspaper has seen pushes another Kremlin line, saying that the state of Ukraine does not exist.
Fact-checkers from the London School of Economics have previously refuted this, writing that the claim was "based on a dangerously distorted reading of the past".
On Saturday morning, Mr Pooley apologised for the posts. He said: "Upon reflection, I can see that my social media posts were wrong and were made as a result of believing false propaganda that has been presented as facts. I profusely and sincerely apologise for any offence that I have caused and offer my support to the people of Ukraine."
Conservative Group leader at Ipswich Borough Council, Ian Fisher, said in a statement: "We were made aware of a social media post by Cllr Shayne Pooley relating to the conflict in Ukraine. Upon investigation we immediately took the decision to suspend the councillor from the party and the Conservative Group at IBC, pending further enquiries.
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"The post does not reflect the opinions of the Conservative Association who wholeheartedly stand behind the people of Ukraine in their struggles against the ferocious aggression from Vladimir Putin. We all wish for a quick, peaceful conclusion to the aggression shown by Russia and a return to Ukraine being a self-determining democratic country in its' own right."
David Ellesmere, Labour leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: "Yesterday was a dark day for Europe, for democracy, and for the values we hold so dearly in the West.
"While the rest of the continent looked on in horror and stood in solidarity with the Ukrainian people, we saw a Conservative councillor here in Ipswich apparently making excuses for Putin and his assault on the people of Ukraine.
"To suggest that Putin is somehow liberating Ukraine, a sovereign country whose people deserve the basic right to self-determination, is nothing short of a disgrace and puts a stain on the Conservative Party’s name.
"I'm glad the Conservative party has taken action, but these comments should never have been made in the first place."