My Lords, with the leave of the House, I wish to repeat a Statement made in the other place earlier today by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Ben Wallace, with reference to Ukraine. The Statement is as follows:
“Since the House rose last, I wanted to update members of progress in Ukraine and UK support to date with it. On 29 August, Ukraine embarked on a counteroffensive in the south of the country around the city of Kherson on the west bank of the Dnipro river. As part of the shaping fires, Ukraine had inflicted serious damage on a range of river crossings with the aim of restricting Russian logistical support. This has had some considerable success. I can report to the House that the Ukrainian forces have made real progress, assaulting on three axes, and especially on the advance to the south of the city of Kryvyi Rih. The grinding fight in the Donbass continues, but with Russia making few substantive gains in the east over the last two months. Since June, Ukraine has struck more than 350 Russian command posts, ammo dumps, supply depots and other high-value targets far back from the front line. Many of these have been with longer-range weaponry supplied by international partners, including the United Kingdom.
As of today, the Ukrainian army is engaging with Russian forces using both artillery and brigade-level operations. It is making real gains but, understandably, as we have seen elsewhere in this conflict the fighting is close and hard, and Ukraine is suffering losses associated with an attacking force. My thoughts and the Government’s thoughts are obviously with the men and women of the brave Ukrainian forces, who are fighting to uphold our values as well as theirs and defend their land.
However, Russia continues to lose significant equipment and personnel. It is estimated to date that over 25,000 Russian soldiers have lost their lives and in all—including those killed, casualties, the captured or the now-reported tens of thousands of deserters—over 80,000 are dead or injured or in these other categories. This will have a long-lasting impact on Russia’s army and its future combat-effectiveness.
Russia has yet to achieve any of its strategic objectives. We are now on day 194 of what was envisaged in total to be a month-long campaign. I know members will be worried about reports about the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is the biggest nuclear power station in Europe. On Friday 1 September, the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency visited the plant accompanied by Russian media. No other international media were allowed to attend. Under the IAEA an inspection was carried out and it has left a team behind. It has already draw attention to the ‘violation of its physical integrity’ and the United Nations remains gravely concerned about the dangerous situation in and around the plant. We will continue to monitor it and ensure that we engage with Ukrainian partners to also ensure that no one’s safety is put at risk.
Earlier in the month Turkey, Russia and United Nations came to an agreement on grain exports from Ukraine: the so-called Black Sea initiative was put in place. This has now seen over 2 million tonnes of grain exported, with another 100 ships waiting to embark grain from Ukraine’s ports. I want to place on record the Government’s thanks to both the United Nations and the Turkish authorities for facilitating this: it was no mean feat. We have offered the Turkish military any support it requires but, to date, the Turkish Government have not requested any support, but we do stand ready to do so.
The United Kingdom continues to gift military aid to help the Ukrainian armed forces resist the illegal invasion. Since the end of July, when this House rose, we have gifted a further three GMLRS M270 platforms and accompanying missiles. We are now working on an additional package of support. The total funding committed to this support is £2.3 billion.
In June, I recognised that training is as important as military hardware, which is why we have embarked on establishing a network of training camps in the UK to train 10,000 Ukrainians. This was accompanied by specialist armed training across a number of countries in Europe. So far, we have trained 4,700, and I am delighted that over the summer we were joined by forces from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Canada, Holland and New Zealand, who are all now in place alongside British military personnel delivering that training. The training cycle is now in its third iteration and, after lessons learned, we have now extended it to a five-week syllabus. We are already seeing this make a difference to the combat effectiveness of Ukraine, and we are evolving the course and feedback to make sure that the experiences do exactly what the Ukrainians need.
But support for Ukraine goes beyond the here and now. Being able to plan for the medium and long term requires international funding. So, at the beginning of August at the invitation of our Danish friends in the Danish Government, I co-chaired with them a conference in Copenhagen. So far, we have amassed pledges of up to €420 million of support, including those to be delivered through an international fund for Ukraine. We are working through the governance of this fund with our international partners, and we hope to add to it when I present more details this week to the Ukraine defence contact group convened by the United States in Germany on Thursday. This fund will be used to hopefully support a range of measures, including ammunition production, to ensure that there is a sustainable supply over the long term in Ukraine.
I place on record my appreciation to the Prime Minister for his enduring support for Ukraine throughout this process, without which a lot of this would not have been possible. I am grateful, too, for all the support of the parties across this House for the action we have taken. This allows us to lead on the world stage with a determination and focus on all the things that are right about Ukraine’s defence from an illegal invasion and on the fact that we share such common values of freedom, respect for sovereignty and the international rule of law. I hope all of us in this House do so—I know from experience that we do. This Government’s commitment to Ukraine remains unwavering and is enduring, and I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I welcome the Statement from the Government today on the situation in Ukraine. It gives us the opportunity to restate, as my right honourable friend the shadow Defence Secretary did earlier in the other place, our united and continued support for the government effort to help Ukraine stand up to Russian aggression. It is a fundamental principle that we are standing for together with Ukraine—namely, that aggressors cannot be allowed to redraw international boundaries or borders by force.
On behalf of Her Majesty’s Opposition, I reiterate that we stand ready to work—again, as my right honourable friend the shadow Defence Secretary said in the other place—with the new Prime Minister and the Defence Secretary. We hope he keeps his post, and that the noble Baroness the Minister does so too. We will do all we can together to support Ukraine, because its fight is our fight.
The Statement today says that a network of training camps has been established across the UK with the aim of training 10,000 Ukrainians, which we support. Can the Minister say what the timeframe for this training is? Do the Government plan to increase the numbers we can and will train? Will the training be extended beyond the basic soldiering skills which are currently covered?
We welcome the continued military aid being given to Ukraine in terms of equipment, in particular the extra-long-range missiles and unmanned air systems. Are we able to meet the demand for these weapons with our NATO allies? Are we also able to replenish the domestic stockpiles that we have, and has the replacement of the NLAWs now started? Further, is the provision of this equipment designed to help the Ukrainians hold current ground or take back territory from the Russians? In other words, what strategy underpins our provision of this military equipment?
Western and NATO unity is essential in the face of Russian aggression. Critical to the maintenance of this unity is the ability of Governments to communicate the threat to their populations effectively given the difficulties their country faces. How do the Government intend to do this? Does the Minister agree that we are entering a critical new stage, with the conflict potentially at a new point? With Ukraine hitting ammunition dumps, airfields in Russian territory and command posts, Putin appears to be under increasing military pressure, and there are reports that he may well step up efforts to persuade the West to lean on Ukraine to agree to a ceasefire and to negotiations. What will we do to counter such activities, and can the Minister give us an update on NATO, European and western unity in the face of this?
What are the Government doing to explain that the energy crisis and supply chain disruption that we have seen are not a result of Russia’s war but an essential part of it? What will we do to help people through this cost of living crisis, and is the MoD talking to the Home Secretary about the continuation of the Homes for Ukraine scheme? How successful have we been with Turkey in ensuring that the additional 100 ships that the Minister mentioned which are waiting to leave Ukraine and ports in the Baltic Sea can leave? Can the Minister give us any update on when that might occur?
The Defence Secretary now appears to be using arguments that we have been making, saying at the end of the Tory leadership campaign that there are plans to update the integrated defence review, reconsider the shape of the Armed Forces and increase defence spending as a result of events in Europe. In the light of that and the lessons of the Ukraine conflict, when can we expect the stopping of the cuts to Army numbers of 10,000? That would be a great start to any independent review. Can the Minister give us any insight into when the update of the integrated review may take place?
Finally, notwithstanding the points and questions that I and others have made, we all want Ukraine with our support to succeed. It is testament to its determination, heroic bravery and determination that, with the help of the UK and our allies, it has withstood Russian aggression for over six months. Russia needs to know that we too are in this for the long haul if necessary, and together we will not waver from standing beside Ukraine in defence of the principles of freedom and democracy.
My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness for repeating the Statement.
Since we rose for the Summer Recess, the Ukrainian army has had some very significant successes and appears to be making extremely good use of the resources which we and our allies are providing it with.
We on these Benches, like the Opposition, remain supportive of the stance which the Government have taken in supporting the Ukrainian Government, and we welcome the initiatives that the Secretary of State has outlined in the Statement. I have just a few questions.
First, on Zaporizhzhia, the UN is quoted in the Statement as being concerned about the dangerous situation which still obtains there. In the light of that—presumably the UK Government agree with that assessment—what scenario planning has been undertaken to look at the potential fallout, literally, of a major nuclear release at Zaporizhzhia, which is by no means impossible?
On the gifting of military equipment, there will come a point—in some areas, we have probably reached it—when we have gifted all the equipment we have or cannot gift any more without our own capabilities being too far eroded. Can the Minister confirm that new orders are being placed to replace donated stock and/or produce new equipment which we can then simply gift directly from the factory to the Ukrainian army?
Training is one of the most commendable aspects of the work we have done, not least because we have been able to add a considerable amount of capacity at a very modest cost. I echo the questions asked by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, on the future plans for this scheme in terms of both the number of soldiers involved and its scope. Is any training involving the Ukrainian air force and navy currently being undertaken or planned?
I want to ask about the scope of the international support fund. Is it limited, as I suspect it is, to arms and military supplies or does it extend to the concept of a broader Marshall plan for the reconstruction of Ukraine? We are going to need that at some point; I just wonder whether this initiative will form the nucleus of such a broader scheme.
It was reported in the FT today that the EU is to hold a summit of European states next month to build regional co-operation in the face of Russian aggression, and that the UK has been invited to participate. Can the Minister tell us whether the UK has indeed received such an invitation and, if so, whether it has responded to it? If the answer to the latter part of the question is no, I ask the Minister to urge her colleagues—not least the new Prime Minister—that it is crucial that the UK is represented at any such event so that we can both demonstrate the maximum degree of European unity on the issue and ensure that the UK exercises the maximum influence on the co-ordinated European response.
Finally, I want to ask a couple of questions about refugees. I accept that they may be beyond the Minister’s immediate remit but perhaps she could write to me if she cannot answer them. First, what is the Government’s plan for further support for Ukrainian refugees here once we have passed the six-month point? Secondly, how long do the Government envisage the scheme being open? At what point do they envisage themselves saying that the situation in Ukraine is stable enough for the scheme to end? Thirdly, what plans do the Government have to expand the support that British universities are giving to students from Ukraine, particularly in technical subjects such as medicine where, again, as with the basic military training, a small amount of expenditure could yield significant results for Ukraine’s future prospects?
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Newby, for the tenor of their introductory remarks, which was welcome; I particularly thank them for their kind remarks in relation to me. As I have said before—my right honourable friend the Secretary of State echoed this today in the other place—the force and cogency with which the UK has been able to assist Ukraine have been helped enormously by political unanimity in Westminster. It has sent a very strong message, not just to friends and allies but to Mr Putin, that in the UK there is absolutely united resolve at the political level to deal with and address this evil, and not just to talk about it but to put our money where our mouth is and provide substantive help. I am grateful to both noble Lords for their positive comments.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, raised the issue of training and the timeframe, as was echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Newby. Although we have planned with an initial training programme of 10,000 Ukrainian personnel, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State indicated today in the other place that this support will, frankly, be provided for as long as it is needed. I think we all understand that this training is having a hugely positive impact on both the morale and the capacity and capability of the Ukrainian armed forces to deal with this threat within their country. We are under no illusions about the support that we can give on the training front, and so we accept that we are not putting a timeframe on it. We will rely on Ukraine to tell us what it needs and how many people it can present for training. We can have all the capacity and capability, but we need the Ukrainian armed forces to present people for training.
The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked about numbers. The Statement referred to the numbers that we have been training and hope to train. My understanding is that we plan to provide up to 1,050 UK service personnel to facilitate the training of the Ukrainian armed forces.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, raised the matter of whether we can meet the demand for weapons and asked what we are doing about replacement. These are very pertinent questions. We have been meeting demand. Again, we are liaising daily with the Ukrainian Government. As the noble Lord will be aware, we had significant stockpiles, some of which contained weapons that were not in the first flush of youth, but that did not mean that they were not still effective and useful. We have been able to draw on these stockpiles. The pertinent question then is whether we come to a point of replacement. The answer is twofold. Yes, we do, but we have made sure that at no time have we compromised the UK’s ability to defend itself and address its own national security needs, and we have been in regular consultation with industry and signalled that we anticipate approaching it with orders and that they should be getting their houses in order to ensure that they are able to deal with the supply of whatever that request may be.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about our strategy for supporting Ukraine. We all acknowledge that the character of the conflict has changed since it started, many months ago. It has perhaps moved on from being purely defensive to us now seeing Ukraine with an appetite to be offensive in trying to recover territory. Our strategy is that we constantly liaise with the Ukrainian Government, as we do with our military allies and partners, to assess what we can do to support Ukraine in what it thinks it needs at this time in the conflict. It is quite difficult to say with any precision what we might be doing at the end of this month or at the end of November because it depends on the fluidity of the conflict. As for the resolve, the commitment and the determination of the United Kingdom and our friends and allies to support Ukraine, let there be no doubt that it is rock-solid.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about NATO and European unity, which I would say is positive and strong. The noble Lord, Lord Newby, asked particularly about the EU summit, which I will come to. We have had a very good relationship with the EU, which has been cemented by the universal recognition that, when you are confronted with a threat such as Russia’s illegal invasion of a sovereign country, nobody is safe. Everybody understands the mutuality of that threat and the need to stand shoulder to shoulder and agree on how to address that threat and how to support Ukraine in resisting this illegal invasion.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, very articulately encapsulated that the energy crisis is caused by Putin. That is a message that must repeatedly be got out. The problems that we are all confronted by, not just in this country but across the globe, on energy prices, inflation and escalating food prices have been created by Putin.
We are doing everything we can to help to mitigate the effects of that, and that is partly what we are doing to assist Ukraine. President Putin is now finding that his war in Ukraine is a very expensive, distracting and damaging exercise for him and his country. That is partly to do with what we and our allies and partners are doing to support Ukraine, the effect of sanctions and the miscalculation that he made about the reaction to this invasion. He thought that this was some kind of little local incursion that he could make into a country that he took a fancy to, and he had absolutely no realisation of the global impact of his illegal activity. We are doing everything we can to help.
I cannot pre-empt what the new Prime Minister may wish to announce in relation to trying to alleviate the very corrosive impact of these prices on ordinary families in the United Kingdom, but all the indications are that the Prime Minister intends to make an announcement. I anticipate that the Government will come forward with specific plans to provide help.
There was another question about when the grain ships will leave. I do not have specific information about that, other than what is already in the Statement. Again, that is a fluid situation. When the ships can get in and be loaded, they will leave.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked specifically about the integrated review and the cuts to the Army. I repeat what my right honourable friend said in the other place: the integrated review, which we all know is a substantial piece of work, absolutely correctly identified the main threat—it is Russia. It has been confirmed sharply that the integrated review was right in that analysis.
On the cuts to the Army, as the Secretary of State has repeatedly indicated, it is always a difficult question within defence, when you look at the overall capability, to determine what you will do with money if you get it or get more of it. He summed it up very neatly today when he said that, if you get more resource, you need to look at how to make the Armed Forces less vulnerable. There may be a variety of ways to do that.
I would like to echo the final sentiment of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, who said that it is absolutely critical that all of us who are minded to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, whether as political parties of the UK or nation states who are partners and friends, stand firm. The noble Lord is absolutely correct. That must happen, and we must not allow a cigarette paper to filter between us.
The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about the nuclear plant at Zaporizhzhia. The inspection has been very recent, and we are awaiting further information. It will then be easier to make an assessment of the situation and what response, if any, should be made.
On the reconstruction of Ukraine, we all wish we had a crystal ball. We do not know what lies ahead, but we know that there is a concerted view that Ukraine will need help with that reconstruction. It is premature to discuss it now, but we will certainly look at it when the time is appropriate.
I am unable to answer whether the United Kingdom has been invited to the EU summit about rebuilding Ukraine—it is a bit wide of my remit. I can certainly make inquiries and write to the noble Lord.
Finally, the noble Lord had a number of questions about refugees. Again, these are outwith my particular ministerial remit, but I have made of note of them. I shall look at Hansard and see if we can provide some response.
My Lords, the noble Baroness gave a wonderful summary of where the Government have got to. I want to look at the grain export issue. I congratulate the Government on what they are doing in helping to open up the Black Sea. The noble Baroness will know that I have been involved in an international task force to improve the volume of grain exported by rail, but the Black Sea is the answer.
I met some friends from Romania in the summer. They said that so many mines were being washed up in the Black Sea, at Constanţa and the coast nearby—Russian ones that have lost their tether—that people are forbidden to go into the sea. Are the Government or their allies doing anything to minesweep a channel? We do not want any of these ships—and the more there are the better—to hit mines and be damaged.
That is a very important question. As the noble Lord will be aware, we do not have Royal Navy deployment in the Black Sea, but I understand that we have been amenable to providing training on countermine measures and have offered support to Turkey if Turkey would find that helpful. As the noble Lord will be aware, Turkey has deployed the Montreux convention and therefore there is very restricted activity. However, I reassure the noble Lord that if help is required by Turkey and advice and help are sought from the UK, we will look at that very sympathetically.
My Lords, first, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. Secondly, I was delighted by the supportive stance taken by the noble Lords, Lord Coaker and Lord Newby. I think it is right that in his final day of office the Prime Minister should be acknowledged for his robust support and swift response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and his leadership of the western world in the strong and continued response and resistance to the Russian invasion. Can the Minister tell the House how effective she thinks the sanctions on the Russian regime are? Are they effective or not?
We understand that the sanctions imposed by the UK and our international partners are having deep and damaging consequences for Putin’s ability to wage war. We have sanctioned more than 1,100 individuals and 100 entities and, with our allies, have frozen around £275 billion-worth of assets. That includes oligarchs worth £117 billion. We have also announced new sanctions on Kremlin-imposed officials in the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics. Russia’s GDP is expected to contract by 3.5% to 8.5% in 2022, but that is compared to a pre-invasion forecast of 2.8% growth. By 2026, Russia’s economy is expected to be 16% smaller versus the pre-invasion trend estimated by the International Monetary Fund. There is evidence that it is hitting Putin hard. Much more problematic is to know whether the message is reaching ordinary Russian people. There is evidence to suggest that, sadly, they are now beginning to experience the hardship of the consequences of Putin’s illegal war. It may be that with that, coupled with the tragic deaths of and injuries to the loved ones and relatives of many people and families in Russia, they may now be beginning to pose the question: what is this about and why are we doing it?
My Lords, looking slightly beyond now and the immediate future, what assessment have the Government made of the fact that on 25 August, the day after Putin’s chief of defence acknowledged that the Russian military campaign had stalled, President Putin signed a decree, which will come into effect on 1 January 2023, increasing the size of his country’s combat forces by 137,000 people? That brings Russian combat personnel to 1.15 million people. If we take into account that Ukraine has set itself the target of a 1 million-strong military, what are the implications for the strategic stability of the part of the world that we are a key part of? What assessment have the Government made of this significant development?
It may be that Putin passes a law or makes a decree, but we have seen that the mass and volume of his armed forces numbers have not delivered for him the military triumph that he clearly anticipated was within his grasp when he embarked upon this illegal war. As the noble Lord will be aware, various reasons are hypothesised for that: many of these troops were untrained, many were provided with equipment not fit for purpose, and there seems to have been an absence of overall strategic command. So there are inherent weaknesses within the fundamental operational capacity of the Russian military. That has become evident as Ukraine has embarked on its activity to defend the country and seek to call Putin to account.
The noble Lord is right that these levels of activity are alarming but we must not be distracted and we must never lose sight of the fact that something wrong, illegal and dangerous has happened; somehow, we and our like-minded friends and allies have to respond to that by helping Ukraine. The gift that Putin would wish for is to think that anyone is getting bored or fed up or is now taking this all for granted. We are not—this country is not doing that, and neither are our European and NATO partners. We are resolved to stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine and do whatever it takes to assist in bringing this illegal invasion to an end.
My Lords, sanctions, as we know, are a very blunt instrument and, indeed, a double-edged sword—they harm those imposing the sanctions as well as those subject to them—but, as my noble friend said, they appear to be working in Russia; they are certainly reducing economic activity and, God willing, they will have a significant effect on the Russian economy. However, we hear from some of our European allies that they are less than enthused by the sanctions. In particular, Signor Salvini, who may easily be in government in Italy before the end of this month, yesterday called for an end to sanctions. Can my noble friend reassure me that our European allies will continue to be steadfast in backing continuing sanctions as part of the great unity that we wish to continue to see?
In the course of responding to the conflict in Ukraine we have been encouraged by the attitude and decisions of our friends within the EU. Very constructive measures have been taken and there has been a manifest level of co-operation and recognition of what I said earlier—that this is a threat that affects us all. It may be that an individual political leader in an individual European country has reservations about sanctions. It is for the other countries, whether inside or outwith the EU, to explain that the evidence is there that sanctions work and are beginning to bite Putin where it matters. That is a very powerful argument to advance.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for reading the Statement, not least because the situation in Ukraine has such direct relevance to the energy crisis being faced by millions of people in Britain today. I have two brief questions: first, in relation to longer-range missiles and the Minister’s own reference to offensive operations, are the Government confident that these cannot be fired either deliberately or accidentally into the territory of Russia itself? Secondly, in respect of the International Atomic Energy Agency visit, I am sure the Minister will agree that it has an extremely important job of work to do, but can the United Kingdom use its position as a permanent member of the Security Council to ensure that a report on the situation at that nuclear plant is available and discussed at the Security Council because it has such relevance to the global community?
If I may, I will take the noble Viscount’s second question first. As I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Newby, we are in the early days of understanding what the inspection has gleaned. I think there will be a recognition by the United Nations that there is universal interest in understanding what has happened at that plant. Therefore, again, it is somewhat outwith my ministerial sphere of responsibility, but I would be very surprised if the FCDO is not actively engaging with the United Nations to understand more about the inspection and what might ultimately be disclosed on that front.
In relation to the supply of weapons by the UK to Ukraine and what they are used for, we have made it clear that they must be used in conformity with international law. That includes using them within Ukraine for the defence of the country. Defending the country and using the weapons within Ukraine may be offensive in nature because that may be aimed at activity engaged in by Russian forces but still within Ukraine, but we require that Ukraine operates within international humanitarian law and international law, and that is understood.
My Lords, I was glad to hear that the Statement gave quite a bit of space to the very important agreement on the export of Ukrainian grain and oilseeds. This is the first sign of a slight concession on the part of Russia. It is also of extreme importance to some of the poorest people in the Middle East and north Africa, including some of those living in refugee camps or displaced people.
Can the Minister confirm the figure given in the Statement of 2 million tonnes already exported and apparently having reached their destinations? Of course this is only a small proportion of the total foodstuffs in store in Ukraine—maybe 10%—so it is still extremely important. Can she tell us anything about the current 2022 harvest in Ukraine? How badly has it been affected by the fighting? Is it being successfully stored?
I repeat what I have mentioned previously: we should not just settle and plan for a long drawn-out war. Anything that can be done to shorten it must be done. Are the Government therefore working to make the maximum use of the possible and available channels of communication, including through our diplomatic staff in Russia?
On the specific question about the 2 million tonnes of grain, I do not have information as to where that has gone or which countries have received it. I can undertake to make inquiries and if an answer is forthcoming, I shall write to the noble Lord.
He is quite right that the consequence of all this is impacting desperately on the poorer countries of the world. It may be a considerable time before there is a manifest expansion of the grain exports that would both provide food to sources that need it and reduce the price and cost of the food supply. That may take a little time.
In the meantime, we as a country have produced £372 million pounds for the countries most impacted by rising global food prices, which was announced at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in June. The UK and partners also secured the largest ever World Bank financial commitment of $170 billion for low-income countries around the world. That is supporting countries facing economic hardship as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On the final point, this war is going, I am afraid, to be a protracted affair. At the end of the day, how it unfolds and what the consequences are will very much depend on Ukraine’s decisions about what Ukraine wants to do. That is not for others to interfere in. They must come to their own view, when they think they can, as to what options are available to them.
On the final question about communications with Russia, it is very difficult to maintain diplomatic relations with a country which has behaved as appallingly as Russia has. What I can say to the noble Lord is that at defence level, MoD maintains communication with the Russian MoD to try to ensure that we understand the escalation and implications of any military activity. At that level there is engagement, but I am afraid that diplomatic engagement in the current situation is almost impossible to contemplate.
My Lords, I return to the section of the Statement referring to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, particularly the final part of that section which says that we will
“engage with Ukrainians to ensure no one’s safety is put at risk”.
Given that Reuters was reporting a couple of hours ago that the Ukrainian energy authority has just confirmed reports from the weekend that the sixth reactor has again been disconnected from the grid, due to the destruction of power lines, I do not really believe that the Government can say that they can ensure that no one’s safety will be put at risk. None the less, the Statement talks about engaging with the Ukrainians on this issue. Can the noble Baroness assure me that all possible diplomatic pressures are being used on the Russians to seek to push towards the demilitarisation and safe restoration of that area? In light of the fact that Ukraine is distributing iodine tablets to its population around the nuclear plant, are the Government working with the Inter-Agency Committee on Radiological and Nuclear Emergencies to ensure that international preparations, should the worst happen, are at the absolute highest level they could possibly be?
Again, I say to the noble Baroness that is somewhat out of my ministerial sphere but I am very sympathetic to her concerns. The Statement said that we will do our best to monitor what is happening; we will certainly engage with Ukrainian partners to understand what is going on. As I said to the noble Lords, Lord Newby and Lord Hylton, it is now very much a matter for the International Atomic Energy Authority to consider what it has found and what its recommendations are. It would be sensible for this country to work with other partners within the United Nations on that front. As the noble Viscount, Lord Stansgate, pointed out, these are serious issues. At the end of the day, we will work better in co-operation with the United Nations in trying to understand what is happening.
House adjourned at 8.17 pm.