The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 28 March.
“With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to update the House, on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, about the NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings in Brussels last week. Together with our allies, we agreed to keep the pressure up on Putin to end his appalling war in Ukraine through tougher sanctions to debilitate the Russian economy; through supplying weapons to Ukraine and boosting NATO’s eastern flank; through providing humanitarian aid in dealing with the wider consequences of the crisis; and through supporting Ukraine in any negotiations it undertakes.
Strength is the only thing Putin understands. Our sanctions are pushing back the Russian economy by years and we owe it to the brave Ukrainians to keep up our tough approach to get peace. We owe it to ourselves to stand with them for the cause of freedom and democracy in Europe and across the world. It is vital that we step up this pressure. We cannot wait for more appalling atrocities to be committed in Ukraine. We know that the impact of sanctions degrades over time, and that is why we need to act now.
Next week, NATO Foreign Ministers will meet to follow up on the statements of leaders. I will be pressing our allies over the next weeks for all of us to do more. On oil and gas, the UK has already committed to ending imports of Russian oil by the end of this year. We must agree a clear timetable with our partners across the G7 to end dependence on Russian oil and gas permanently. On banks, we have already sanctioned 16 major Russian banks. We have hit Gazprombank and placed a clear prohibition on Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. We want to see others adopt these sanctions and go further.
On individuals, we have cracked down on oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich. Last week, we sanctioned the despicable Wagner Group of mercenaries. On ports, Britain has banned entry to Russian vessels at all our ports. I will be lobbying our partners across the G7 to join us in stopping Russian ships.
We must maximise the flow of weapons that are being supplied to Ukraine under the United Nations charter of self-defence. The UK was the first European country to start sending lethal aid to Ukraine, and we are doubling our support, with a further 6,000 missiles, including next-generation light anti-tank weapons, and Javelin anti-tank weapons. We are equipping our Ukrainian friends with anti-aircraft Starstreak missiles. We are also strengthening NATO’s eastern flank, deploying troops to Bulgaria, and doubling the numbers of troops in Poland and Estonia.
We are co-ordinating deliveries with our allies, and we want others to join us in getting Ukraine what it needs. The UK is providing £220 million in humanitarian support to help the people of Ukraine, from shelters to heaters and medicine. Today we announced our partnership with Australia to fly out more relief, including blankets, cooking equipment and power generators. We are getting supplies directly into Ukraine’s encircled cities, with £2 million in canned food, water, and dried food. As refugees come into countries such as Poland, we are working with the UNHCR so that it is informed about the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. That scheme has already had more than 150,000 applications, thanks to the generosity of the British public.
We know that Putin is not serious about talks. He is still wantonly bombing innocent citizens across Ukraine. That is why we must do more to ensure that he loses and we force him to think again. We must not just stop Putin in Ukraine, we must look to the long term. We must ensure that any future talks do not end up selling out Ukraine or repeating the mistakes of the past. We remember the uneasy settlement of 2014, which failed to give Ukraine lasting security. Putin just came back for more. That is why we cannot allow him to win from this appalling aggression, and why this Government are determined that Putin’s regime should be held to account at the International Criminal Court.
We will work to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have set up a negotiations unit to ensure that the strongest possible support is available to the Ukrainians, alongside our international partners. We have played a leading role alongside our G7 allies in driving the response to Putin’s war, and I want to ensure that that unity continues. Sanctions were put on by the G7 in unison, and they should not be removed as long as Putin continues with his war and still has troops in Ukraine. That is not all. We must ensure that Putin can never act in this aggressive way again. Any long-term settlement needs to include a clear sanctions snapback that would be triggered automatically by any Russian aggression.
In the aftermath of Putin’s war, Ukraine will need our help to build back. In these exceptional circumstances, we have a duty to step up with a new reconstruction plan for rebuilding Ukraine. We will work with the international community to do that. At this defining moment, the free world has shown a united response. Putin is not making the progress he craves, and he is still not serious about talks. President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people know that everybody in the United Kingdom stands firm with them. We were the first European country to recognise Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. Thirty years on, we are the first to strengthen its defences against Putin’s invasion, and lead the way in our support. Over the next week, I will be working to drive forward progress in unison with our allies. Together, we can secure a lasting peace that restores Ukraine’s sovereignty. Together, we can ensure that Putin fails and Ukraine prevails. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, over the past month the people of Ukraine have shown incredible resistance in the face of Putin’s aggression. The unjustified violence levelled against civilians on the ground, in addition to the indiscriminate aerial bombardment, has resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths, and led to increasing evidence of war crimes taking place. On this last point, Liz Truss, the Secretary of State said on Monday that Putin will
“be held to account at the International Criminal Court”
“We are working with our allies to collect evidence.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/22; cols. 593-595.]
I hope the Minister will outline the resources we are devoting to this to ensure that we can pursue a successful case.
We fully support the continued provision of military assistance, as well as all possible political, economic, and practical support. On sanctions, the statement referred to next week’s meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers to discuss further measures, including divestment from Russian oil and gas. The decision to support a clear timetable for ending dependency is welcome, but can the Minister update the House on what steps the UK has taken to increase energy supply from elsewhere since the Government’s announcement to end Russian oil imports by the end of this year?
In relation to banks and finance, the Statement talks of encouraging others to replicate the UK’s sanctions, and Liz Truss also said on Monday:
“We want to do more … and we want our partners to do more.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/22; col. 595.]
Noble Lords will be aware that there are some designations made by our allies which we have not yet replicated. Can the Minister say when we can expect further secondary legislation to extend the UK’s designations?
The increase in supplies of weapons is welcome, but, given the shifting nature of the conflict in recent days, I hope the Minister will agree that the Government must be alert to Ukraine’s changing military equipment needs and be able to respond quickly.
We must also recognise that Russia’s attack will have long-term implications for the European security order and that this is the moment for the UK to work with our NATO allies to bolster their defences. Liz Truss, in response to David Lammy, said that the Government were
“committed to boosting European security and working with our friends right across the EU.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/22; col. 595.]
What recent discussions have the Government held with our NATO allies in eastern Europe over their national security?
The Statement referred to £220 million of humanitarian support. Can the Minister confirm how much of this is for neighbouring countries and how much is for Ukraine? Given the evolving situation, the Government must work with our allies to secure corridors to allow women, children and the most vulnerable to leave safely, in addition to allowing the delivery of aid. Can the Minister outline what steps we are taking at the UN and with the 120 aid organisations on the ground to secure this?
Finally, it was disappointing that the Statement did not include any further details on how the UK can offer safety and sanctuary to refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Minister may be aware that Labour has called for emergency protection visas for those fleeing Ukraine who want to reach the UK. This would lift the normal visa conditions other than the biometrics and security checks, which can now be swiftly done en route, and provide a quick and simple safe route to sanctuary for all who need it. Can the Minister outline whether discussions have taken place with his counterparts in the Home Office on this?
My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing us this Statement.
The leadership in Ukraine and the courage of the Ukrainian people have been remarkable, and we pay tribute to them. I am very glad that we are standing with them, and we support the Government in this regard. Clearly, the suffering is terrible. As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, just said, it is surely right to say that war crimes have been committed here, and people must be held to account.
Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made in regard to humanitarian corridors? It is appalling that, as has happened elsewhere in conflict, such corridors can become opportunities for targeting the most vulnerable. It is vital that those responsible are brought to account.
Clearly, the political tectonic plates have shifted with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The increased focus and unity of NATO and the EU is striking, but that unity does not fully extend globally, as the Minister will know. I would like to ask him a few questions about that. Commissioner Borrell and others have described Mariupol as “our Aleppo”, but at least two Middle Eastern Foreign Ministers have said that Aleppo is their Aleppo. Does the Minister pick up a sense that across some parts of the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, there is some concern that the response to Ukraine was not mirrored when other conflicts arose elsewhere? How are the Government tackling that?
How are we working internationally to make sure that this crisis is recognised as being of vital importance globally, and that the unprovoked invasion of one country by another is not accepted? Are we having useful dialogue with China and India in this regard? Does the Minister now recognise that it is vital that we have closer co-operation with the EU so that we can address our common interests, whether in foreign affairs or defence, more effectively? Will that now be taken forward? I have put this to the Minister many times, as he knows. Surely it is crystal clear that this must now happen.
Does the Minister also recognise that European countries have welcomed refugees with open arms but we have simply put up barriers in their way? Are the Government not ashamed of the paltry number of visas issued? Will they move to the same arrangement as the Irish, for example, and do the paperwork afterwards? I think of all those homes offered by the British people, yet few refugees are allowed through. The Statement mentions, I think, 150,000 homes offered. Will the noble Lord tell us exactly how many Ukrainian visas have now been granted? How could we ever have asked people to scan in documents that they might not have with them as they fled and that these were translated with a certified translation?
I welcome the action on sanctions but why did we allow time to slip before we put sanctions on individuals, some of whom have made it clear that they have offloaded their properties or passed them to their families in trusts? Will we pursue those family members? Will we increase the capacity in the sanctions unit? What are we doing to close loopholes that may be used in the overseas territories?
Are the Government working with others to try to get trusted information into Russia? Do the Government now recognise how important the BBC is, not only in the UK but worldwide? I hope they will not just praise the BBC World Service, as they did in the integrated review, while at the same time undermining it at home.
There are of course major consequences of this crisis. What is being done to address the potential food shortages across the Middle East and Africa? We already have famine in Yemen and Afghanistan. Do the Government recognise the potential for instability? Are the rumours right that, despite this, the Government are about to slash the ODA budget that goes towards tackling instability? Is it not now time to restore the aid budget to 0.7% of GNI?
I welcome that we are seeking to end reliance on Russian gas and oil. We are of course not in the position of the Germans and others in this regard. However, surely this is the time when we need to recognise the urgency of the climate crisis, and that this shows that developing our own renewables is not only the right thing to do but helps us to defend against reliance on countries such as Russia.
Above all, we must continue to be strenuous in our efforts to support those in Ukraine who have been subject to such a terrible and unprovoked attack. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s response.
My Lords, once again I thank the noble Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, for their support of the Government’s position—indeed our country’s position—in our solidarity with and support for Ukraine and its people, and for the courageous leadership within Ukraine under President Zelensky and other colleagues and Ministers. We continue to engage with them on a daily basis at the very highest level.
I will address some of the specific questions. First, I totally agree with the noble Lord Collins, in his opening remarks about the importance of our position and the collaboration and strength that we have shown across both Houses, both sides of this House and, equally, as a country as a whole. I certainly saw that when I visited Poland last week, which also provided me with detailed insight into some of the questions that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised. I had the occasion to go right to the border point where crossings are taking place, and I can share with noble Lords the heart-wrenching scene of seeing split families coming through. The majority were women and children—97%, as estimated by international agencies, including the UN—as boys over the age of 16 and men below the age of 60 are not crossing the border. Many unaccompanied families are coming through.
I will come on to the specific figures of those wishing to come to the UK but what was evident to me from speaking directly to those crossing the border and fleeing the conflict was their desire to remain very near to Ukraine. One can imagine oneself in that position; if you are split from a father, a brother, a sister or any family member, your inclination would be to be as close by them as you could be.
The other thing I want to put on the record is that I acknowledge, as I am sure all noble Lords do, the absolutely sterling role that the Polish Government are playing in this respect. I saw evidence of that in the reception at the border, through to the processing, immediate support and support centres. Although it was tragic to see what was unfolding, what I witnessed at one of the two major border crossings was a structured and co-ordinated approach to the Ukrainians who were crossing over.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, referred to the International Criminal Court. He will recall that we engaged early on with the prosecutor at the ICC, Karim Khan, and that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary visited The Hague. I assure the noble Lord that we discussed exact requirements specifically with the prosecutor, including financial and technical support, and we are extending our full support to him. This was also a matter for discussion with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland during my visit to Warsaw last week; we agreed on the importance of co-operation, including both Justice Ministries co-operating with each other in collecting evidence. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has been engaging at a senior level with all Foreign Ministers, including those across NATO —the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked about this—on an almost daily basis through meetings conducted either here or directly in Brussels.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked about partnerships with our European neighbours. As I have often said to her during our different debates over many years, we have left the European Union but we have not left Europe. This crisis has demonstrated the importance of aligning ourselves and co-operating with our European partners, as we have done on sanctions and in our co-ordinated response to the humanitarian needs of the Ukrainian people. It is important that we continue to act.
On the noble Baroness’s main point on defence, that is being discussed with our NATO allies. This will continue to be the case.
I shall look to provide an update on humanitarian support, with a detailed breakdown, through the regular FCDO briefings we do for parliamentarians. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that we are looking specifically at the needs on the ground. We have engaged directly with the Ukrainians and international agencies—including the UNHCR, the ICRC and the IOM, among others—to ensure that their requirements are met immediately; the DEC appeal also illustrated the generosity of the British people. In doing so, we are employing humanitarian, emergency medical and rapid deployment teams in all neighbouring countries. Next week, I or my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will attend a meeting in Germany about co-ordination with European partners on the response to Moldova, which is a member of neither NATO nor the EU but has its own territorial challenges with the Russian presence nearby and its border with Ukraine being subject to particular Russian intent.
I hope I am not jumping the gun in saying that, all things being equal, there will be further secondary legislation. I have certainly signed further secondary legislation on the sanctions regime—I can assure the noble Lord of that—which I believe will be laid at 5 pm. I assure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness that we are working at pace to ensure that we are fully aligned with our American, Canadian, Australian and EU partners in a co-ordinated response to sanctions.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned weapons support and changing needs. He may be aware that, in close co-ordination with our NATO partners, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary has organised for tomorrow a meeting with our key partners on this very subject, including how we co-ordinate effectively with them to support Ukraine’s defensive needs through military support.
On the issue of humanitarian corridors, raised by both the noble Baroness, Lady Northover, and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, the fact is that they can be guaranteed only if both sides subscribe to them. I have spoken directly to UN agencies and others working directly on the ground; indeed, I met various charities and NGOs. Unfortunately, one thing they report is the lack of any authorisation or approval being given by the Russians to allow humanitarian support. That said, brave, courageous individuals and organisations are accessing Ukraine. I asked someone from a charity who I will not name specifically what they did. He said, “Minister, we load things up in a van, we get our courageous drivers to drive through the border and we tell them to go as far as they can. When they face missiles, bombings or barriers, they stop and distribute their aid.”
Clearly, there is a need for co-ordination. I witnessed good co-ordination on the ground, but more needs to be done in terms of the internal situation—the massive displacement of Ukrainians within Ukraine itself. Undoubtedly, Poland is taking the majority of people fleeing the conflict, but some are returning. On the border, I witnessed women who had dropped their children with friends and family in Poland and were seeking to return, not just to support brothers, husbands and fathers but to fight. That reflects the courageous nature of the Ukrainian people.
On the refugee schemes, these are the totals I can share at the moment. For the Home Office refugee schemes, as of 29 March there have been 31,200 applications for the family scheme and 28,300 applications for the sponsorship scheme. There have been 22,800 family scheme visas issued and 2,700 sponsorship scheme visas issued. I will keep updating noble Lords with the figures, but what is very clear is that most Ukrainians wish to stay near the border point.
There is also a QR code on a leaflet produced by the UNHCR and other agencies which contains not only information on safety and safeguarding—what happens once refugees cross the border, fleeing the conflict—but additional information on the various sponsorship schemes, including ours, included in the code. We are working in co-ordination with the Polish Government to see what we can do to enhance that information, not just in English but in other languages. I saw notices in several languages, and the accessibility of those various schemes was very clear through the current QR code.
I will continue to update noble Lords directly, as I have done, but, in concluding on their specific questions, I thank both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for their continued support.
Your Lordships’ House debated the invasion of Ukraine on 25 February, the day after Russia’s invasion. Everybody who spoke that day wished Ukraine well. Nobody predicted what has happened in the past six weeks; nobody foresaw what Ukraine could achieve. Everything that could go wrong is going wrong for Russia. Evidence is accumulating that Russia is losing. So I have two questions for the Minister. First, I do not expect him to go into detail, but among the scenarios that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office is now considering, is it looking at the consequences of Russian defeat? The Soviet Union collapsed in 1991; might the Russian Federation, across 11 time zones, collapse in 2022? Secondly, sadly, defeat for Russia does not mean victory for Ukraine. President Zelensky may have to agree an unsatisfactory peace. Please can the Minister confirm that that would not be the trigger for us to lift sanctions? That is a different decision, and sanctions should remain in place until all Russian troops have left the territory of Ukraine.
My Lords, the noble Lord is of course right. We have seen that the scenarios that were perhaps envisaged in Moscow have played out very differently in Ukraine, and recent announcements have reflected that. However, I add a massive note of caution. Notwithstanding what is happening on the ground to the Russian forces, the Russian military is, nevertheless, very well equipped and there may be alternatives. The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, talked about Mariupol; we have seen what has happened through the use of missiles and their indiscriminate destruction. That cannot be ruled out in any shape or form. Of course, any peace negotiation is rightly being led directly by the Ukrainians and President Zelensky. We fully support his efforts and are in close co-ordination and contact with His Excellency the President, Foreign Minister Koluba and others. Noble Lords will be aware of various initiatives that are taking place.
On the issue of scenarios playing out, we have not reached that point yet. I briefed members of the Council of Europe yesterday, and it was very evident that, at some point in time, it will be about not just Ukraine but the impact of the sanctions. It is right that we have acted in co-ordination. But our battle is not with the people of Russia; they are also suffering. Whatever emerges in Russia—one hopes that the voices of democracy and inclusion will be strengthened there—there will be a need at some point to look towards what this means for Russia, its economy and, most importantly, its people.
I did not answer one point on Mariupol and Aleppo. I have had that scenario painted to me, as with other conflicts, and I will say two things on it. First, the noble Baroness will have seen our announcement on Afghanistan today—we are hosting a donor conference. One should not compare and contrast human suffering; it is important that we stand firm in our support for those who suffer through conflict. Aleppo is our conflict, as is Mariupol, and we must look at them through that lens.
First, I commend the Government for their speedy and effective reaction to this crisis, praised by President Zelensky over and above many of our allies, including our European ones.
Secondly, the Statement says:
“Strength is the only thing Putin understands.”
Unfortunately, that is incorrect: he also understands weakness, which is why he had the Germans and others over a barrel over their dependence on Russian gas. He looks at us and sees that, as we speak, we are reducing our Army by 11% and reducing the number of our aircraft and ships. Could the Minister go back to the Government and say that the integrated defence review needs revisiting?
Thirdly, I am delighted to see that we have sanctioned the Wagner Group—however it is pronounced—but could he please assure me that the security services are looking into its funding? I have heard some very distressing tales about funding by foreign Governments who are not Russian.
My Lords, on my noble friend’s final point, in any sanctions we of course look at a full range of factors to determine who we sanction. We are dynamic in our response, looking at the implications of any sanctions that we have imposed and wider ones that need to apply. I hear very clearly my noble friend’s comments on our defence, but, of course, in advance of this conflict we increased defence spending. Nevertheless, conflicts such as these bring in an important consideration of ensuring that our integrated review and its outcomes are applicable and relevant to the world as we see it today.
My Lords, has the Minister had the opportunity to read the words written yesterday by Richard Haass, the veteran diplomat and peacemaker and the current president of the Council on Foreign Relations? I refer to them because he very clearly stated that, at this stage, there ought to be two priorities for his Government and other Governments who support Ukraine. I refer to him because I agree with him. First, we need to concentrate on ending this war on terms that are acceptable to Ukraine. Secondly, in the meantime, we need to discourage and deter escalation by President Putin—that is crucially important. So we should all think about what is a plausible war termination, because I believe that we will be asked that question sooner rather than later. We should also be very careful about what we say, because if it gives President Putin the sense that he has nothing to lose, he will be discouraged from any form of restraint in those circumstances. I wonder whether our Government are approaching the situation in this way, appreciating—as I am sure the Minister does, having come to know him—that this ought to be very important to all of us.
My Lords, I have not actually seen the statement raised by the noble Lord, but I will look at it. In principle, I agree with both points raised. The first is very clear: when it comes to peace, any resolution must be led and agreed by Ukraine, as I said in response to the noble Lord, Lord McDonald. That remains part and parcel of our thinking. On Mr Putin and Russia, President Zelensky has repeatedly been calling for direct talks, because it is important that the leaders of those two countries sit down to determine their future pathway. It is also important that other countries that support Ukraine, as we do, fully support direct contact in such negotiations.
My Lords, my noble friend gave the numbers of those who had applied for visas and of visas that had been issued. The latter seemed to be a small percentage of the former. What can we do to expedite visas for those who wish to accept the widely proffered hospitality of our country?
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harrington and I have clearly heard about the importance of expediting the visa process, and the Government have moved in that direction. All noble Lords agree about the basic biometric and security checks necessary, but I will again pass on the importance of speeding up the process. Visas are being issued. Although this is a snapshot, I have met a number of Ukrainians and they want to go back home. Their immediate sense is to be near Ukraine. No person I met did not say that they hoped to return home in days and weeks; they are certainly not thinking about months.
My Lords, last week when visiting Lithuania, I was struck when meeting refugees, as the Minister was, that as civilians dropped off their loved ones they returned to Ukraine in their cars to take up arms and fight against Putin’s illegal war. Given the war crimes committed in Mariupol and elsewhere, and which were referred to earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, what can the Minister tell us about the appointment of Sir Howard Morrison to expedite prosecutions of those responsible? Can he respond to the letter that I sent him recently urging him to organise a meeting in your Lordships’ House with Karim Khan QC, the prosecutor for the ICC? In her Statement to the Commons, the Foreign Secretary said:
“We must ensure that any future talks do not end up selling out Ukraine, or repeating the mistakes of the past.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/3/22; col. 593.]
Was she not right that whatever is decided must be the decision of the Ukrainian people? We must stand with them at this terrible time of trial.
My Lords, I totally agree with the noble Lord’s final statement. On his earlier point about the appointment of Sir Howard Morrison, of course someone of his calibre is much welcomed; he has great insight and will bring great expertise. I have received the noble Lord’s letter about arranging further meetings; I cannot guarantee Karim Khan’s schedule, but I assure the noble Lord that we are working closely with him. In the division of responsibilities, the Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary is leading the engagement on how we can best support his mission, but I will certainly mention it to Karim that, next time he is planning to be in London, we should arrange an appropriate briefing.
My Lords, the noble Lord is aware that, in any conflict, it is useful to get into the mind of your opponent. That is extremely difficult with Putin, as we know, but he has previous; he has committed crimes, not just oppressing his own people in Russia, but in this country—Alexander Litvinenko and the Salisbury poisonings. A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with Professor Michael Borschevsky, who is a renowned student of Russia because his wife was murdered by Putin’s FSB over 20 years ago. Professor Borschevsky came to this country and now has a British passport. We had a very interesting lunch at which he produced this article, which I want to share with the House for important reasons.
There is a question coming. The important thing is that this moved me so much that I asked him to translate it into English, so that I could share it with your Lordships at some point. This was written by Alexander Litvinenko over 20 years ago. In effect, he was signing his own death warrant. He said:
“When the whole world was chasing Bin Laden and saving itself from global terrorism, another monster, similar to Hitler, ripened by blood behind the Kremlin walls. If not stopped early, this maniac could bring civilisation to yet another world massacre in which furnace millions and millions of human lives could perish.”
That was very telling for me. In the light of the descriptions that I have outlined and that we know about, will the Minister give further assurance that he and the Government will act to make sure that war crimes are duly brought to account and the persons responsible punished?
My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord’s second question is yes. I have already indicated how we are working closely with the ICC. On the noble Lord’s earlier point about opposition within Russia, I agree with his assessment: we have seen what Mr Putin is doing with opposition in his own country, not least the horrendous treatment of Alexei Navalny and his move to a high-security prison. Obviously, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, but it underlines Putin’s view of opposition in his own country.
My Lords, in the discussion about the possible terms of a settlement, it has been suggested that the United Kingdom and other countries become guarantors of the security of Ukraine. Have the Government given consideration to that possibility, and would they support it?
My Lords, I have seen some of the details which have been coming out but, as I said earlier, we have not reached a point where such detailed discussions take place. Of course we have noted some of the points that have been raised. As I said earlier, we will support Ukraine in ensuring that any decision on any negotiation is led and agreed by it.
My Lords, we are having a very polite debate this afternoon. It does not feel as though we are right on the edge of a third world war. Mr Putin is extremely dangerous. He is not used to failure; he is not used to weakness. He does not represent the people of Russia. I worked in a Russian ministry for several years in the 1990s. Those people all want to join the West, but NATO rejected Russia, rejected Gorbachev, rejected Yeltsin and, in the early days, even rejected Putin’s requests—“Come on, let’s be partners. Let’s consider getting into a partnership within NATO.” It all sounds a bit fanciful now. Putin is there; we have to look ahead. Will the Minister take back the point that if we leave this to Ukraine, Russia will tear it apart, literally, limb from limb? NATO bears some responsibility for what is going on. Will the Minister consider that and talk about it with his colleagues?
My Lords, I have listened very carefully. I do not believe that at any time I have said, “We’re leaving it to Ukraine”; I said that we are 100% squarely behind Ukraine, both defensively and militarily as well as in support we are giving diplomatically. I can share no better example of engagement than that our Prime Minister and President Zelensky talk regularly once, if not twice, a day. We are providing multilateral support. I shall be at the UN; it is our presidency next month. A lot of our debates will be focused not just on support for Ukraine in the current conflict but on accountability. We will convene a debate on sexual violence in conflict—there have been reports of that in Ukraine. I can give the absolute assurance that, whether it is the FCDO, the Ministry of Defence or the Government as a whole, we are squarely with Ukraine, shoulder to shoulder.
As for the future and what happens with Russia and Mr Putin, I agree with the noble Baroness. That is why I exercised caution when it was suggested that perhaps Russia was defeated or is retreating. We are very cynical about that, because Russia has weaponry which it can use and deploy at any time.
My Lords, as someone of Russian origin, my grandparents having fled the Bolsheviks, can I ask the Minister to ensure that people do not mix up the Putin regime with the Russian people? I have had a few nasty tweets asking whether I am a Russian spy. One must be quite careful. The Russian people are appalled by what is happening.
My Lords, earlier in the Statement I said exactly that: our fight or argument or dispute—and the Ukrainians’ argument also—is not with the Russian people. We stand by the Russian people. In Russia, over 60 cities held protests and were targeted. I assure my noble friend that what she says is very much part and parcel of our thinking.
My Lords, will we not look rather foolish if, having driven Abramovich out of Britain with threats of property confiscation, it turns out that he was genuinely trying to negotiate some way forward with the Russians, whom he knows very well, and in doing so paid the very heavy price of possible poisoning for his efforts? What happens if that turns out to be true? Will we not look rather unappreciative? It might be that, in the end, we have to thank him for his efforts and perhaps even rely on his efforts.
My Lords, today I had a response from the Home Office that it did not know how many people had come into the UK with visas on the Homes for Ukraine scheme. Can the Government translate that website into Ukrainian so that it is more user-friendly? I have sent a list of suggested improvements to the relevant Minister.
I want to ask also about humanitarian aid. Of the 44 cancer centres in Ukraine, only eight now remain. Patients are being moved into Poland. Lithuania and Moldova’s health facilities are at capacity. In the humanitarian aid that we are providing, is there pain relief, and are there anaesthetic agents, surgical supplies and antibiotics going into Ukraine and neighbouring countries, including anti-cancer drugs to those adjacent cancer centres? Do we recognise that many of the medical staff within Ukraine have been killed or injured and therefore that their numbers are seriously depleted? Are we supporting those agencies from the UK which are providing rapid online support to trauma surgeons within Ukraine?
My Lords, on the final question, the short answer is yes. We are working very closely with our colleagues in the Department of Health regarding the requirements in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. To be very open, I asked what the specific needs were for Poland in terms of beds, medicines, et cetera. As the noble Baroness will be aware, we have delivered a sizeable amount of humanitarian and medical support to near-neighbouring countries. I do not want to paint a false impression; undoubtedly, the challenge remains getting into Ukraine in a safe and secure way, as I have indicated already. On the issue of cancer patients, the noble Baroness will be aware that the United Kingdom itself evacuated 21 paediatric oncology patients from Warsaw for treatment by the NHS in the UK and will continue to work very closely with Poland and other partners to ensure that those who need urgent treatment, either in country or in the UK, will be facilitated.