Statement on the Current Situation in Ukraine

Over the last few days, I have received many emails from constituents, and indeed from across the country, expressing concerns and even outrage at the invasion of Ukraine, an independent sovereign state, by President Putin’s military machine. I distinguish the act of this dictator and tyrant, Putin, from the Russian people, who like most people everywhere, want to live their lives in freedom and peace. I want to express my solidarity with the people of Ukraine, but also I want to commend those brave Russians who are standing up to Putin’s warmongering. His erratic and irrational behaviour is a serious threat to us all.

Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an unprovoked and unjustifiable outrage that will have tragic consequences for Ukraine, Europe and our world. It is a heinous violation of international law that breaks multiple treaties and commitments, including the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. Putin’s actions should be utterly condemned by all nations. As such, I regret that some countries in the UN Security Council failed to support a UN resolution calling for this yesterday.

This assault on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine must now have serious consequences for Putin and his supporters. I am clear that there can be no space for equivocation when faced with the evil that Putin has unleashed. His actions pose a grave threat to the international order on which we depend and have broadly enjoyed since the end of the Second World War.

We must now match our rhetoric with action. The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against all those linked to Putin and against the Russian Government’s interests, working in a coordinated and unified way with our allies to ensure the Putin regime faces the severest possible consequences for their actions.

The UK sanctions earlier this week have been recognised as far too limited. Yesterday’s additional sanctions are wider reaching but there will undoubtedly need to be more. Some of you have proposed your own sanctions including ‘isolating Russia completely’ and ‘stop buying oil, gas and other commodities from Russia’. I agree. Under Putin’s presidency, Russia must be seen as a pariah state and ostracised from the world economy.

We need to move quickly to stop the influence of corrupt Russian money in the UK. Despite warning after warning, the Government failed to act, leaving Britain as the destination of choice for kleptocrats who hide their wealth under our noses. It has been going on for far too long and should not have taken an invasion of Ukraine for the Government to act. The Economic Crime Bill must now be brought forward, as well as introducing an Overseas Entities Bill.

But we must prepare for the consequences of these sanctions against Russia in energy and financial markets, working with our allies and partners to manage disruptions and shocks.

International co-ordination with our allies is imperative. This applies not just to sanctions, but to humanitarian aid and military defensive actions. We must work in conjunction with our NATO allies to mount our response against Putin.

In the short term, we must:

    • ensure the Foreign Office is providing effective consular support and assistance, with sufficient staffing and resources, to help UK nationals and their families seeking to leave.  I have been pressing Ministers in the Foreign Office and Home Office for nearly a month now to make access to visas and travel documents for UK nationals and their families easier.  I am pleased there is an effort to streamline the process, but believe Ministers could, and should, have acted far more quickly.
    • provide urgent humanitarian assistance and to work with our partners and Ukraine’s neighbours to manage the large-scale displacement that we are already seeing as refugees flee their homeland.
    • continue to play our part as a member of NATO to support and reinforce other NATO members on the Eastern flank.

As difficult as it is to predict irrational behaviour, we must try and anticipate Putin’s next steps. In relation to this, given the overwhelming evidence that Russian state actors have tried to disrupt and destabilise western democracies by disseminating disinformation through social media platforms such as Facebook, including at election times, I asked the Prime Minister what steps his Government was taking to prevent this happening now. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be on the Government’s horizon yet. It should be.

I don’t believe the Russian people want this war; this is an ageing and unstable leader with a warped view of what his legacy should be. The international community’s response must learn the lessons from history.

I’m grateful to everyone who has contacted me so far and for the humanity and kindness they have shown for the distress of the Ukrainian people. I’d particularly like to thank those of you who have offered to open up their homes to Ukrainian refugees. This is the Oldham and Saddleworth I’m so proud to serve.

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