The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 28 February.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to update the House on our support for Ukraine in the face of Putin’s premeditated, pre-planned and barbaric invasion. Ukraine has suffered horrific attacks. Missiles and air strikes have torn through apartment blocks. Tanks have rolled into once peaceful cities. Innocent people, including children, have lost their lives.
The situation is fluid but, as of today, Putin has not taken any major cities. The advance has been slowed by Ukraine’s fierce resistance. Putin’s invasion is not proceeding to plan. He expected to take cities quickly. He expected Ukraine to retreat, and he expected the West to be divided. Instead, his forces were met by the heroism of President Zelensky and the resolute determination of the Ukrainian people. He has been met by a united West, together with our friends around the world, and we have taken decisive action.
Today, we have acted with the US, the EU, Japan and Canada to cut off Russia’s central bank from our markets. The rouble has fallen by more than 40% as a result. As much as $250 billion has been wiped off the Russian stock market and, today, its stock market is closed. The EU, Germany, Sweden and others are following our lead in providing defensive weapons to Ukraine, and Germany has frozen Nord Stream 2.
Putin has been confounded by our collective response. That is why he is resorting to more and more extreme rhetoric. But, of course, the situation remains dire. The Government and people of Ukraine are facing a continued onslaught. The days ahead are likely to prove tougher still.
The UK and our allies will have to undergo some economic hardship as a result of our sanctions, but our hardships are nothing compared to those endured by the people of Ukraine. Casualty numbers are rising, and more than 300,000 people have already been displaced. This is a struggle for Ukraine’s freedom and self-determination, but it is also a struggle for freedom and democracy everywhere and for the survival of a Europe whole and free. We feel a particular responsibility as the UK is a signatory to the 1994 Budapest memorandum, which provided Ukraine with security guarantees.
This premeditated invasion, in violation of international law and multiple international commitments, cannot succeed. Putin must lose. We are doing everything that we can to stop him and to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will do this by backing Ukraine against unjustified aggression, by degrading the Russian economy and stopping it from funding Putin’s war machine, and by isolating Putin on the world stage.
First, we are backing Ukraine with defensive weapons, humanitarian aid and economic support. The UK was the first European nation to send defensive weapons to the country, and those weapons are being used today to halt Russian tanks and defend Ukrainian towns and cities. Our latest consignment of defensive support left Brize Norton over the weekend. We are also leading on humanitarian support. Yesterday, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister announced a further £40 million of humanitarian aid, which will provide Ukrainians with access to basic necessities and vital medical supplies. We call on Russia to enable humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians to flee the violence. The UK is also supporting Ukraine’s economy, including through £100 million of official development assistance and guarantees of up to $500 million in development bank loans.
Secondly, we are cutting off funding for Putin’s war machine. We are coming together with the US, the G7 and the EU to take further decisive steps. We have been joined by Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and many more. There is a growing list of countries which are determined that this aggression cannot stand. We have agreed that many Russian banks will be removed from the SWIFT system, kicking them out of international finance. That is the first step towards a total SWIFT ban. Our collective action against Russia’s central bank will prevent it from deploying its international reserves to mitigate the impact of our sanctions.
We are also launching a joint task force to hunt down the assets of oligarchs hit by our sanctions. The UK is proud to lead by example. We have already put in place the largest package of sanctions in our history. We have sanctioned Putin and Lavrov, Russia’s defence industry and a growing list of oligarchs. We have approved asset freezes on several Russian banks and we are banning Russian airlines and private jets from our airspace, but we are determined to go much, much further. We want a situation where they cannot access their funds, their trade cannot flow, their ships cannot dock and their planes cannot land.
Today, I inform the House that I will be laying two new pieces of sanctions legislation. The first will introduce a set of new powers against Russia’s financial sector, including powers to prevent Russian banks from clearing payments in sterling. With over 50% of Russian trade denominated in dollars or sterling, our co-ordinated action with the United States will damage Russia’s ability to trade with the world and, as soon as this legislation comes into force, we will apply it to Sberbank —Russia’s largest bank.
I will also be imposing a full asset freeze on three further banks: VEB, Russia’s national development bank; Sovcombank, the third largest privately owned financial institution in Russia; and Otkritie, one of Russia’s largest commercial banks. We will bring in a full asset freeze on all Russian banks in days, looking to co-ordinate with our allies. The same legislation will prevent the Russian state from raising debt here, and will isolate all Russian companies—more than 3 million businesses—from accessing UK capital markets. Global giants such as Gazprom will no longer be able to issue debt or equity in London.
The second piece of legislation will ban exports to Russia across a range of critical sectors. This includes high-end technological equipment such as microelectronics and marine and navigation equipment. This will blunt Russia’s military-industrial capabilities and act as a drag on Russia’s economy for years to come. I appreciate the consequences of this step for British people and British businesses operating in Russia. The Department for International Trade and the Treasury will offer advice and guidance to affected UK businesses. My consular staff will continue to support British nationals in Russia, as well as those in Ukraine.
We will keep ratcheting up our response. More legislation will follow in the coming weeks, sanctioning Russian-occupied territories in the Donbass, extending more sanctions to Belarus, and limiting Russian deposits in UK banks. We will continue working through our hit list of oligarchs, focusing on their houses, their yachts, and every aspect of their lives. In addition, we will introduce the economic crime Bill tomorrow; my right honourable friend the Business Secretary will set out more in the next Statement in the House. This is all about flushing out the oligarchs’ dirty money from the United Kingdom. We will continue to work with our G7 allies to cut off the Russian economy and cut the free world’s dependence on Russian gas, depriving Putin of his key source of revenue.
Finally, we are leading the diplomatic effort to ensure that there is a chorus of condemnation against President Putin. In the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a key part of the European security architecture, 45 countries condemned Russia by name. At the UN Security Council on Friday, more than 80 UN members voted for, or co-sponsored, a resolution condemning Russia’s aggression. Russia stood alone in opposing it. Putin is isolated. No one is willing to back his war of choice. In recent days, I have spoken to my counterparts in more than 20 countries around the world. Yesterday, I met G7 Foreign Ministers. We were joined by Ukraine’s brave Foreign Minister, my friend Dmytro Kuleba. Everyone is clear that Putin must lose, and we will carry on increasing the pressure until he does.
We have all seen Ukraine’s determination to fight. Putin’s war could end up lasting for months and years, so I say to our Ukrainian friends, “We are with you. In Britain, and around the world, we’re prepared to suffer economic sacrifices to support you. However long it takes, we will not rest until Ukraine’s sovereignty is restored. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I begin by reaffirming our full support for the Government’s approach to this crisis. On a personal note, I wish to acknowledge the hard work of the Minister, certainly over the weekend, and of his department, in trying to ensure that we get speedy action. The people of Ukraine, led by President Zelensky, have shown incredible resilience. They have the full backing of this Parliament and country in defence of their nation.
There was increasing evidence overnight that thermobaric weapons and cluster munitions are being used by Russian forces, and the number of civilian casualties is increasing by the hour. Given the indication from the ICC prosecutor that they may launch an investigation into claims of war crimes, are the Government considering political and practical support for such a move? I note that Canada has officially petitioned the ICC for an investigation.
Russia’s rejection of international law and the principle of sovereignty must carry fundamental changes for its role in the international rules-based order. That is why we support steps to exclude it from elements of the international financial system. Earlier today, the Telegraph reported that the UK may push for the suspension of Russia from the UN Security Council. Can the Minister say whether this report is accurate? If so, by what mechanism would the Government pursue this?
The Government must explore all possible avenues to ensure that the Putin regime faces the severest possible consequences. We welcome the sanctions and domestic measures that have already been introduced; I am pleased that legislation on this will progress in the week ahead. Yesterday, the Foreign Secretary said that the department is working through a “hit list” of oligarchs and Duma members to sanction. She also referred to more sanctions on the energy and technology industries. Is the Minister in a position to report on these further designations and when they may come into force? I was pleased to hear that she wanted to see a total ban on SWIFT transactions, encouraging allies to back it, together with a full bank freeze, in the coming days. Can the Minister update the House on such measures?
In the debate we held on Friday, the Minister acknowledged the strength of feeling in this House on expediting the full economic crime Bill. It is vital that we act now on corrupt Russian money; ending the impunity that oligarchs have enjoyed for too long and reforming Companies House to crack down on shell companies that hide suspect wealth are vital actions that we should speedily adopt.
In addition to our lethal aid supplies, it was welcome news on Sunday that the European Union will fund the delivery of weapons to the Ukrainian Government. The EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, said that planes would be transferred to the Ukrainian air force, alongside deliveries of small items such as shoulder-fired anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles to the Ukrainian army. I hope the Minister can confirm that we are working closely with the EU to ensure that, together, we meet the request from President Zelensky’s Government on these weapons.
Sadly, the human cost of this crisis will worsen as Putin continues his indiscriminate shelling. This is already leading to the displacement of people into eastern Europe. The UN Refugee Agency said this morning that 660,000 Ukrainian refugees have fled since the invasion last Thursday. I know the Government announced today that the UK’s Ukrainian refugee scheme will now be extended to wider family members. As my right honourable friend Yvette Cooper said earlier in the Commons, many Ukrainian families want to stay close to home but
“for those who want to travel to the UK to seek shelter with family or friends and get the support they need at this dreadful time, we must be ready to help.”
These Benches have been calling repeatedly on the Government to do more to help. There will be considerable relief that they have now changed their position and accepted that we must do more.
However, for the many who are unable to leave, we should prepare to provide urgent humanitarian support. I very much welcome the announcement of the UK’s first humanitarian aid package to Ukraine. I hope the Minister can confirm whether the Government have experienced any difficulties with the delivery of that aid and what we are doing to overcome such difficulties. Are we preparing for the humanitarian consequences of the sieges in Kharkiv and Kyiv?
The Government will have our full support on any steps taken to secure the territorial integrity of Ukraine and the measures introduced so far are welcomed by all sides of the House. It is now clear that the people of Ukraine are prepared to resist Putin’s aggression and, while Russia’s advance may have been limited so far, he will no doubt escalate his campaign of violence. The challenge for us as a country and our allies is to ensure that these acts of barbarism have unbearable consequences for Putin and his role in the world.
My Lords, these Benches also welcome the proposals and will work constructively with the Government to see them properly enforced. I also commend the Minister for the conscientious way he carries out his duties and his contact with the Front Benches—it is appreciated.
Last week, I was in Baghdad and then Beirut, where wounds of conflict are still not fully healed and where there was palpable shock at the grotesque and wanton destruction inflicted by the now pariah regime of Vladimir Putin and his desire to crush and subjugate a democratic European nation. Within Ukraine, areas I have visited and neighbourhoods of people I have met and know are being systematically targeted in premeditated and gross violations of international law and human rights norms. Will the UK fund and prepare a team of expert investigators and jurists to support the collection of evidence for pursuing human rights violations in The Hague against the Putin regime?
It was a solemn but nevertheless proud moment yesterday when President Zelensky’s party, Sluha Narodu, became an affiliate member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, the sister party of us in this House. It draws attention to the fact that the democrats and President Zelensky in particular are now a beacon of democracy and hope in this continent. The president of the General Assembly of the UN, Abdulla Shahid, said yesterday that Russia’s actions are
“an affront to the founders of this organization and everything it stands for.”
The challenge ahead is immense. The Government need to continue to raise their game, and we will work with them in so doing.
The Government’s Statement indicated that the humanitarian assistance was £100 million of ODA and guarantees of up to $500 million in development bank loans. The UK does not provide development bank loans, so I assume this will be done through the World Bank. Last year, the Government cut contributions to the World Bank development bank by 25% and I do not think there is an increase to the Government’s 0.5% cap on international development assistance. Can the Minister confirm that support for those who are suffering in other conflict zones, such as Yemen, will not be squeezed in order to provide much-needed support for Ukraine?
The Government have acted to expand the visa scheme for those seeking refuge and safety in the UK but, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, indicated and as this House very clearly indicated yesterday, we are not happy that the Government was restrictive. More needs to be done in this field.
We welcome the draft economic crime Bill to complement this work but have major concerns that the lack of resources provided to the NCA, the CPS and Companies House, to ensure that existing laws are enforced, will not be reversed. This new legislation will require new resources to ensure that measures are robustly enforced. Can the Minister commit to this? We should use the laws we have in place now to take action and ensure law enforcement are given the resources immediately to do so.
The Statement indicated that we would be moving on Belarus sanctions “in the coming weeks”. I appeal to the Minister. The Belarus regime is now fully complicit with the Russian regime in this conflict, and therefore it is obvious that the actions against Russia should now apply to Belarus. Here at home, can the Government make sure that there is urgent action to ensure that enablers who have supported the oligarchs will not be able to profit from any delay to the bringing forward of new legislation? There is an energy carve-out in the SWIFT restrictions and the banking restrictions. Can the Government use urgent anti-avoidance measures now in the City of London to ensure that lawyers, accountants and financiers will not profit from any delay before legislation is implemented?
Finally, the response of the EU, the US and the UK and others around the world has shown that we, working in co-operation and partnership, stand against illegal aggression and the increasingly desperate narrative of misinformation and disinformation from the Kremlin. We need immediacy and urgency in our actions here at home to support the call of the President of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday to return to peace.
My Lords, I first thank both noble Lords for their strong support for the Government’s position. Indeed, I thank all noble Lords who have shown without any hesitation full support for the position that the Government are taking. As I said before, this is the position of a united United Kingdom, and I am grateful for the support.
I thank the noble Lord for his kind remarks. However, as I have said before, it is important to respond by saying that the challenges we may face as Ministers, shadow Ministers or in your Lordships’ House pale into insignificance when we see the challenges faced by the Ukrainian people. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about the exemplary way in which President Zelensky is conducting himself. If there is a great example of modern-day leadership, he very much epitomises that. Earlier today, on my return from Geneva last night, I—like other noble Lords, I am sure—heard his very emotional address to Members of the European Union Parliament. It was not a scripted speech; he was speaking from the heart and reflecting the sentiments of the Ukrainian people. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Lord, Lord Purvis.
I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, was also travelling over the weekend. We worked on a particular issue and I am grateful for the information she provided, which allowed us to expedite a particular issue in response to the Ukrainian crisis.
On the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised, first, on the issue of the ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, yesterday while I was in Geneva I received a call from him. Today, to quote the statement he issued, he expressed his concerns,
“echoing those of world leaders and citizens of the world alike, over the events unfolding in Ukraine. Today, I wish to announce that I have decided to proceed with opening an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine”.
Of course, I assure both noble Lords that we will be co-operating with the ICC.
On the issue of the financial systems and other sanctions that have been announced, today has been a busy and rightfully important day when it comes to the United Kingdom’s response. If I may seek the House’s indulgence, we have seen announcements from the Home Secretary, the Transport Secretary, and indeed further announcements from the Prime Minister.
This is a fluid situation, so I express my apologies, as things are happening and we are trying to update. Events on the ground are extremely serious; reports are now coming in that the Russian army is moving forward on Kyiv. We are monitoring that very closely, working across government and, I assure both noble Lords, with all partners, including, importantly, our European partners. As noble Lords will be aware, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister is visiting Poland today, as well as Estonia, which underlines our commitment to work directly with our European partners but also the importance of the NATO defence alliance. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is in regular contact with President Zelensky.
Today we have also made further regulations that introduce new measures that prohibit financial transactions with the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the Russian Ministry of Finance and the Russian National Wealth Fund. These have been laid—I understand the usual channels will be in touch—and we will work through the appropriate debates on this later in the week.
My right honourable friend the Home Secretary— I gave this assurance to your Lordships’ House on Friday, when we had a debate on Ukraine—has made further announcements from the Home Office. Contingency plans are now fully effective, and she introduced new measures today, which were announced in the House of Commons, and has established an expansive Ukrainian family scheme. The scheme will be free, and those joining their family will be granted leave for an initial period of 12 months. Within this, they will be able to work in the UK and also access public funds. Secondly, there is the establishment of a humanitarian sponsorship pathway, which will open a route to the UK for Ukrainians who may not have family ties with the UK but who are able to match with individuals, charities, businesses and community groups in support of their presence here. Those who come under this scheme will also be granted leave to remain for an initial period of 12 months and be able to work and access public services. I mention those few key bullet points to highlight that substantial progress is being made.
On the issue of continuing support, which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, raised, I assure him that we are going through the final rounds of our support for particular areas of the world, including Afghanistan, which I have been involved with. We remain very much focused on the humanitarian situations around the world, and I look forward to an update from him on his recent visits to both the Lebanon and Iraq.
My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has also announced additional funding. A release is being worked through, but I can share with your Lordships’ House that we initially stood up immediate emergency funding in the region of £8 million, but that has been increased substantially, and the overall economic and humanitarian support package now stands at £220 million, and £120 million of that is specific to humanitarian support.
I was in Geneva yesterday and met Filippo Grandi, who heads the UNHCR, and today my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary also met him. An announcement is being made by OCHA through Martin Griffiths of a funding requirement and a new ask for funds to respond to this emergency. Of course, the UK is working very closely on that, and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary reiterated that in her meeting in Geneva today.
On the issue of the economic crime Bill, I listened carefully to what the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, said. The sentiments of your Lordships’ House have been reflected in how we have worked on it, and I am sure that noble Lords welcome the commitment that the Government have given in the Bill. I hear what the noble Lord says about Belarus, and we have increased the resource of our sanctions team. As the Sanctions Minister, I can speak from direct insight on how hard the team is working to ensure that we meet directly the requirements. There is still more to be done in this respect.
We campaigned very strongly on the issue of SWIFT, which led to the specific first step taken to exclude certain banks and institutions from the SWIFT payment system, and we continue to work on that.
We have also made an important announcement in the area of transport. Today, we have implemented a set of new transport sanctions which will prohibit Russian ships and other ships specified by the Secretary of State from entering ports in the United Kingdom. I believe that we are the first country to introduce such specific restrictions.
On defence co-operation, President Zelensky and Foreign Minister Kuleba have acknowledged that we have been one of the first countries to offer support in the form of military equipment required by Ukraine, and we continue to work in that respect.
My final point to noble Lords on the Front Bench and across your Lordships’ House is that the situation within Ukraine is very difficult. Yesterday, I met various humanitarian agencies that are working on the ground, some of which I will not name for their protection. They are still very much concerned with the issue of internal displacement and also that they do not know what the situation is in the various sieges that have been laid to towns. I know from the regular contact we are having with Foreign Minister Kuleba and President Zelensky through my right honourable friends the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister, my right honourable friend Minister Cleverly, the Minister for Europe, and me directly, that we are ensuring that we focus our support in the best way possible, led by the priorities needed as, today, we stand by the Ukrainian people and their Government.
My Lords, my noble friend the Minister will have noticed that, on Friday, China and India—in fact, the UAE as well—refused to condemn outright the Russian bloody assault by abstaining. Has he also noticed that China and India are, I am afraid, busy preparing special payments arrangements internationally with Moscow to avoid the effect of the sanctions we are seeking to apply? Perhaps China is beyond reach in this matter, but surely, we have some alliance and understanding with India. Can we not persuade India to join the rest of the democracies—it is the world’s greatest democracy, after all—before it goes on this path, which will be very damaging to our cause?
My Lords, I assure my noble friend that, at both the UN in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva, two resolutions are currently tabled. We are working on an extensive lobbying campaign to ensure maximum support for the two Ukraine resolutions in both places.
On my noble friend’s point about the UN Security Council, he is of course correct that three countries abstained, and Russia also vetoed the resolution that was passed. We are dealing directly with and making our case to not just the UAE and India but China as well. Indeed, in terms of our lobbying effort through our ambassador and the team on the ground in New York, we were pleased that China did not veto the UN security resolution but abstained instead.
My noble friend makes valid points on India, and I know for a fact that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister will speak with Prime Minister Modi today or tomorrow.
My Lords, on the question of justice and war crimes, does the Minister recall the calls made in your Lordships’ House on Friday last for a referral to the International Criminal Court? Indeed, has he had a chance to read the letter that was signed by a number of distinguished Members of your Lordships’ House and sent to Karim Khan QC, the prosecutor at the ICC, over the weekend? In addition to what he has told the House about what Karim Khan said in his statement, did the Minister read these words:
“There is a reasonable basis to believe that both alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed”
in Ukraine? As well as the importance of bringing Putin to justice, is it not right that we do as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said and salute the courage and bravery of President Zelensky? Also, is it not particularly offensive to hear Putin and the Kremlin describe him as a Nazi when you consider that his grandfather had three brothers who were murdered by the Nazis in the Second World War?
My Lords, I am sure I speak for the whole House when I say that in President Zelensky we see someone principled who is standing by his people. I remember that my last visit to Ukraine took place at the exact time of the marking of the Holocaust, which engulfed the Ukrainian people. President Zelensky is the grandson of someone who survived the Holocaust, so let us reflect for a moment on that. I say to those who accuse him of Nazification: his grandfather was a survivor of those evil Nazi acts.
The noble Lord referred to Karim Khan, the ICC prosecutor. In Friday’s debate, I said that many people around the world should perhaps reflect on what was being said in your Lordships’ House and the quality of the contributions, for it was a debate informed by and based on expertise, insight and experience. As I said, I had a conversation with Karim Khan yesterday and we exchanged messages today. I have seen his full statement, which includes the words articulated by the noble Lord. He is looking specifically at that referral mechanism.
My Lords, do we and our allies have a view of what a satisfactory end state would be for us? Do we have a mechanism for stopping the sanctions, or some of them? We have a bad track record of doing that in the past. For example, is it just a case of saying, “Get out of Ukraine”? If so, does that include the Donbass, Crimea, Georgia, Moldova, Donetsk and Abkhazia? We must have a view of where we want to go and what we want. Do we have that clear view, and do our allies have it?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important point. Of course, the clear view has to be led, and rightly so, by the Ukrainian Government and the Ukrainian people. They have kept the issue of diplomatic negotiation very much open. Yesterday, President Zelensky, notwithstanding his own assessment of what the outcome would be of those negotiations, sent a team to the border with Belarus to meet directly with Russian representatives. I have seen the statements that came out of that, and they probably reflected President Zelensky’s pessimistic view. Our view is clear and is shared by the Ukrainian Government. Yes, ultimately, there has to be a peaceful settlement, but to allow diplomatic means to prevail, President Putin must pull back from the eastern part of Ukraine to allow those discussions to take place. To set preconditions while occupying sovereign land is no way to say, “Let’s seek a diplomatic solution.”
My Lords, can my noble friend clarify the position of British citizens—civilians—who may wish to travel to the Ukraine to fight, as there has been some mixed messaging from the Foreign Office? That would greatly assist those who are keen to help Ukraine, but who would be endangering themselves and Ukrainians if they were to take that position.
My Lords, my noble friend is right to draw attention to this. Of course, the sentiments of your Lordships’ House reflect those of any person with humanity at their core: you want to help in the best way possible. The best advice that I can offer to anyone seeking to travel to Ukraine is to look at the Foreign Office advice, which is very clear: do not travel to Ukraine. There is a lot that you can do within the United Kingdom to provide support, and we are extending support to near neighbours as well. They may wish to help with humanitarian efforts, but the situation in Ukraine is very fluid. We are recommending that no one travel there, and I hope that this Foreign Office advice is heeded.
My Lords, what lessons do the Government draw from the fact that on sanctions, the supply of arms and the treatment of refugees, the UK, like the leaders of many western European countries, is being pushed by public opinion into much more far-reaching support for Ukraine than those leaders had originally intended? Does that not strongly suggest that further measures should be taken and more support given to Ukraine and to Zelensky’s Government?
My Lords, I can certainly speak for the United Kingdom Government. For example, through Operation Orbital we were providing defence support directly to Ukraine immediately after the occupation of Crimea. We have a long-standing relationship with Ukraine: indeed, President Zelensky and Foreign Minister Kuleba have talked of the strong support they have received from the United Kingdom over a number of years. However, I acknowledge that when there is a crisis of the magnitude we now see in Ukraine, with the sovereignty of Ukraine being directly usurped by Russia, it is right that we, the Europeans, and all international partners look to do what we are doing, and do more. There is more still to be done.
My Lords, I think that everyone in this House would like to compliment the Minister on the enormously valuable work he has done and continues to do on this; we all appreciate it. However, can he take back to his colleagues that saying all the time that we are leading on this and leading on that is not the right tone? To say that we are working with others, we are co-operating, we are in solidarity with our partners and allies would be much more constructive in the current context.
Can I also ask about the domestic dimension of sanctions? I was very struck by the paragraph in the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report which said that the penetration of British society and politics by wealthy Russians resident in London has gone so far that it is now in some ways difficult to untangle. We must now see what we can do to untangle that. Can we be assured that the Government will not only do their best to untangle it, but report to Parliament on what they are doing?
My Lords, on the noble Lord’s second question, perhaps I can answer it with his first suggestion. To untangle such challenges we must work together, which is exactly what we are doing. We are working here in the United Kingdom and with key partners to negate the negative influence of Russian money and illicit finance in the United Kingdom and more broadly. As he will have seen from the sanctions we have introduced, they are reflective of that very objective. I am sure he will find that, as further legislation comes forward, further sanctions are applied and we have discussions on the economic crime Bill, we can untangle some of those issues.
On the issue of leadership, I have served with the noble Lord in government and I am sure he agrees that there are times when the United Kingdom leads the way, and I am proud of that. The richness of our history, our experience and our expertise reflects that. It is that leadership which also leads to enhanced partnerships, and that is exactly the approach we have adopted in this crisis.
My Lords, I welcome the Statement. It is certain that cryptocurrency will be used extensively to at least attempt to avoid these sanctions. There is no question about that. I think the Government are alert to that; the Foreign Secretary’s answers in the other place certainly indicated that they were. For the second day in a row, can I try to persuade a Minister to get the Financial Conduct Authority—
“the anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing … supervisor of UK cryptoasset businesses”
under the money laundering regulations—to remove the list of non-compliant crypto- asset dealers from its website? It is advertising money launderers to crooks and kleptocrats. Can they please be removed? There are 220 of them. It is not just their names: their websites and sometimes their mobile phone numbers are there.
They say that when you say it once, you say it twice; I hope the noble Lord might not need to say it thrice. I certainly note very carefully what he said. Of course, cryptocurrency provides an opportunity to weave a way out of some of the sanctions restrictions that are being applied, as he rightly articulated. I noted very carefully what he said and I will respond with more detail in due course.
My Lords, I think that a Russian oil tanker was expected today in Orkney. There was some question about whether it had been sanctioned. I wonder whether the Minister can resolve that point, which is rather important, because Orkney is of course a very important part of the world.
I cannot answer specifically on that vessel. It depends on what time it came in, because the measures announced by my right honourable friend the Transport Secretary came into force at 1500 hours. It really depends on where the vessel was when those sanctions came into force.
My Lords, I am no lawyer, but it seems that this is an illegal war. We have used sanctions, properly, to try to influence a Government and a country to stop invading another country and to stop military people carrying out their tasks. We have now moved to a time to try to influence the people on the ground. That means the actions of either military or intelligence leaders. I follow the point from the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, that investment in our ability to investigate crime would be wise, but also in international prosecutors and the investigation they are about to embark on. The time is now to collect digital evidence on the ground to influence soldiers there, to stop them carrying out barbaric acts if we can and either publish their faces or identify them now, because an investigation after the event will be too late to prevent the damage they might cause today. It is clear that we will see conflict between military people and civilians over the coming days. This is the time to try to influence that behaviour. The digital world is just one way to achieve it.
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very practical and helpful suggestion. We are collecting evidence to support whichever jurisdiction might follow through on the crimes being committed on the ground, including those that will be investigated by the ICC. We will be in full support of that with whatever evidence we have; we will submit our own intelligence that we gather on the ground. Equally, as he may well be aware, we are a strong supporter of the ICC. We will work co-operatively with whatever evidence we can provide to it.
My Lords, my noble friend made several references to legislation. Does he accept that it would be right for such necessary legislation to be given priority over all other legislation? It is absolutely essential that we spend our time dealing not just with domestic Bills if there are Bills that can have a real influence on this ghastly situation.
My Lords, on the immediate issue of the sanctions, we have been working through the legislation, and I am grateful to the usual channels. Normally, there is a 28-day period for a debate to prevail after legislation has been laid; we are currently conducting the debates within 24 or 48 hours, so that partly reflects the situation. On the wider legislation we are bringing forward, I know the respective Front Benches and the usual channels are working very hard to accommodate the legislation required.
My Lords, I too congratulate the Government on all that they are doing for the Ukrainian people. Given that the oligarchs who are close to Putin use lawyers, tax advisers and other such people, what can the Government do to force them to release any information that would follow the money? To be honest, a lot of the money is Putin’s, and he uses oligarchs to move it around.
My Lords, my noble friend again raises an important point. In our debate on Friday, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, also raised the point that the oligarchs are extremely wealthy and can employ lawyers to good effect. That is why our sanctions regime is both robust and tested in terms of legal thresholds before it is applied, to minimise any litigation that may take place.
My Lords, is the Minister having sufficient conversations with our overseas territories and Crown dependencies to make sure that none of our financial sanctions is bypassed in any way?
My Lords, this question has come up before—I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked it too. The legislation will take effect directly in our OTs as well. Of course, my right honourable friend Amanda Milling, the Minister with responsibility for the overseas territories, is dealing directly with the OTs on this.
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, mentioned the interest in depriving Russia of permanent membership of the Security Council. Can the Minister confirm that the arrangement made in December 1991, supervised by my noble friend Lord Hannay of Chiswick, to have Russia as the successor state to the Soviet Union is legally watertight, so that the only way Russia can be deprived of permanent council membership is if Russia votes in favour of it?
I think the House will take the lead of the noble Lord who, as a very distinguished former Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, speaks to what the requirements are. This has been the challenge, frankly, at the Security Council. I am proud—if I may use the word—of the UK’s leadership in its lack of use of its veto power, unlike other P5 countries. The noble Lord is correct in that respect. However, we have seen other actions; for example, the Foreign Minister of Russia could not travel to Geneva for the Human Rights Council earlier today. For those who say the sanctions are not working, I point out that the logistics of restrictions on Russian-registered aircraft over certain countries prevented him travelling. When he spoke, a majority of delegations left the room. There are measures or stands that you can take within the diplomatic network that show not just your immense dissatisfaction but your rejection of the actions of a member of the permanent five.
My Lords, has my noble friend the Minister had conversations with the P&I clubs? As we sit here, loads of tankers are leaving every day with oil for Russia. If you take away the insurance of the tankers themselves, and what they are holding for the owners, that could disrupt them hugely in making the dollars that they much like to make.
My noble friend speaks with detailed insight of the industry. I have gone through, at a summary level, what the new transport measures will mean. I will of course reflect on what he said and then write to him specifically on whether those prohibitions will apply. The fact that Russian ships cannot now enter any British port since 3 pm today will partly address the question he put to me.
My Lords, as on other days, today we are witnessing acts of genocide and war crimes against the women and children of Ukraine, and we know that Putin’s ambitions will not stop there. At the same time, we have a phenomenal amount of air power just sitting on the ground across Europe. Notwithstanding the time it would take for sanctions to kick in, what exactly would it take for NATO to take direct action to stop Putin in his tracks?
My Lords, my noble friend talks of air power. One thing is very clear: we fulfil our obligations through NATO. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said in response to a question put to him today, we are not in the position of putting in place measures that provide the basis for British military aircraft conducting combat directly with Russian combat aircraft. At this juncture of the conflict, our support is very much to the defence of Ukrainian sovereign territory. My right honourable friend has made it clear, as has my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary, that we stand solidly behind the defensive support we can give to Ukraine. We are also providing training support and other defensive material.