This is a dark time for Europe. I share the widespread disgust and shock at the actions of Putin and the Russian federation. This attack is unprovoked, unjustified, illegal and the most blatant example of imperialist conquest, on the European continent since 1945. An attack on Ukraine is an attack on democracy. It is not for the Russian government, or anyone else, to decide what decision Ukraine takes. This decision lies solely with the Ukrainian people and its democratically elected government.
Britain has a strong history of standing up to dictators and those who believe they can subvert democratic will by the barrel of a gun. We cannot turn away now.
I know many constituents have contacted me to ask what steps myself and my party support to end this crisis. I am happy to lay this out. In the run up to the invasion, I was interviewed outside Parliament and wrote my weekly Edinburgh Evening News column on the Ukraine crisis. If you wish to view either of these, I will post the links below.
I support the toughest of sanctions on Russia. Nothing should be of the table, in terms of economic sanctions. I am glad that the UK government recognised the need for economic sanctions, but the original package was completely inadequate and did not meet the scale of the crisis that has befallen Ukraine and Europe. Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, pushing the Prime Minister to implement tougher sanctions, release the Russia Report and finally deal with the influence of Russian oligarchs in our politics and our financial system.
One of the UK government’s biggest failings has been allowing Russian oligarchs to infiltrate our financial system and amass a great number of assets in London, while also providing large donations to the Conservative party. I understand that this is a difficult topic for the Conservatives, and I am pleased that golden passports for oligarchs have been revoked. It is also a welcome step that the Prime Minister has guaranteed that the Economic Crime Bill will be put forward in this Parliamentary session, having previously delayed it until after the Easter recess.
When I was a member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, many of the reports that we authored illustrated just the extent of Russian oligarch money laundering in London.
In terms of sanctions, the initial package laid out by the Prime Minister, I do not believe matched the heights of the crisis we faced. Some of the individuals hit by this sanction, have been sanctioned by the US since 2018. I am glad the UK government introduced more since the invasion, however, it should not have taken a full-on invasion for these measures to be implemented.
Keir Starmer said in his address to the nation, “the hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated, its finances frozen, its ability to function crippled.
That means excluding Russia from financial mechanisms like SWIFT and banning trade in Russian sovereign debt.”
His address was excellent and if you wish to watch the whole thing the link is here:
I will provide the list of sanctions announced by the UK government below
Moving to freeze the assets of all Russian banks. Yesterday we imposed a full asset freeze on VTB, Russia’s second largest bank. Co-ordinated with the US, this is by far the single biggest financial sanction package in history. Individuals and companies whose assets are frozen will be unable to undertake any business in the UK or with British nationals.
- Preventing Russia companies from borrowing on the UK markets, effectively ending the ability of those companies closest to Putin to raise finance in the UK. This is in addition to banning the Russian state itself from raising funds in the UK, as previously announced.
- Stopping Russian banks from accessing Sterling and clearing payments through the UK. This will match the power the US already has. Banks subject to this measure will be unable to process any payments through the UK or have access to UK financial markets. This is the UK’s largest financial sanction in terms of the size on institutions targeted and is taken alongside the US who are putting in place an equivalent measure, cutting Russian banks off from both Sterling and Dollars.
The sanctions package announced by the government contains measures that are good in principle, but the rhetoric must match the reality as we scrutinise the details, and we believe we must go further. There are some glaring omissions in the banking sanctions, and individual asset freeze designations against Putin’s oligarchs are moving too slowly.
There is complete unanimity in Parliament and we back the action so far, but will continue to question, scrutinise and provide constructive suggestions.
Could I recommend the speech by the Ukrainian foreign minister to the UN this week as it sets out the position perfectly – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=91A2tshC0IA
Labour also wants the UK government to go further and bar Russia from cultural and sporting events. I am glad to see the F1 Russian Grand Prix title and the Haas F1 team on the verge of pulling its Russian oligarch title sponsor. I also welcome the Champions League Final being moved from Russia to Paris. It should be the case that Russia is punished in all areas and is made to feel the consequences of its actions.
We must also be ready for a complete reform of our energy sector. With energy prices already high there will no doubt be a hit from the sanctions placed on Russia. Luckily, Britain is less exposed than some of our European neighbours to the Russian energy market. Nonetheless, sanctions will have repercussions on our own economy but it is a price worth paying to assist our Ukrainian friends.
Of course, the UK response must go beyond punishing Russia. We must actively arm and assist Ukraine. I know some constituents have contacted me with support for British troops to join the Ukrainian army, but currently this has been ruled out by both the UK government and NATO Secretary General.
Keir Starmer and the Labour party have been calling on the British government to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of supplying arms and weapons to Ukraine. Facing a country and army far larger than its own, it is critical that all of Ukraine’s Western partners supply it with the weapons and support it needs to hold off attack.
Another critical issue that many constituents have expressed their concerns about is the inevitable flow of refugees that will occur from such a humanitarian catastrophe. I was heartbroken to see the images of traffic jams as families fled Kyiv. I cannot even begin to process what they are going through.
It is clear that a new refugee crisis has already begun. The countries that border Ukraine, such as Poland, Hungary, Romania, are going to see a massive influx of Ukrainian refugees. We must be prepared for this and implement a humane policy towards any and all refugees that make it to Britain. I have always supported the rights of refugees and I am dismayed that the Prime Minister has not committed to implementing a proper policy towards those fleeing conflict in Ukraine. My colleague Nadia Whittome has raised this twice in the chamber with the Prime Minister and has received a fudged answer both times.
Many constituents getting in touch have asked how they can help with this situation. Below I will post a link to a few charities and organisations that are offering assistance in Ukraine. This list is by no means exhaustive and I encourage those that want to help out to do their own research as well.
Sunflower of Peace
United Help Ukraine
Voices of Children
British Red Cross
Humanitarian assistance is also being ramped up. The PM announced £100m on Thursday with a further $500m from other countries to date. We will be pressing for all available resources to be made available.
I am sure more avenues to provide assistance to Ukraine will emerge over the coming days and weeks and I will keep constituents updated.
Rest assured I will be monitoring this situation very closely as it develops and I will provide constituents updates on any major development.
I hope this update has been informative and answers your concerns, as best as possible under the current circumstances.