With permission, Mr Speaker, I will make a statement about the situation in Ukraine. Last night, President Putin flagrantly violated the Minsk peace agreements by recognising the supposed independence of the so-called people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. In a single inflammatory speech, he denied that Ukraine had any “tradition of genuine statehood”, claimed that it posed a
“direct threat to the security of Russia”,
and hurled numerous other false accusations and aspersions.
Soon afterwards, the Kremlin announced that Russian troops would enter the breakaway regions under the guise of peacekeepers, and Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers have since been spotted. The House should be in no doubt that the deployment of these forces in sovereign Ukrainian territory amounts to a renewed invasion of that country. By denying Ukraine’s legitimacy as a state and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia, Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.
Hon. Members will struggle to contemplate how, in the year 2022, a national leader might calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbour, yet the evidence of his own words suggests that is exactly what President Putin is doing. I said on Saturday that his scheme to subvert and invade Ukraine was already in motion before our eyes. The events of the past 24 hours have, sadly, shown this to be true.
We must now brace ourselves for the next possible stages of Putin’s plan: the violent subversion of areas of eastern Ukraine by Russian operatives and their hirelings, followed by a general offensive by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops gathered on the frontiers at peak readiness to attack. If the worst happens, a European nation of 44 million men, women and children would become the target of a full-scale war of aggression waged, without a shred of justification, for the absurd and even mystical reasons that Putin described last night. Unless the situation changes, the best efforts of the United States, Britain, France, Germany and other allies to avoid conflict through patient diplomacy may be in vain.
From the beginning, we have tried our utmost—we have all tried—to find a peaceful way through this crisis. On 11 February, my right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Radakin, paid the first joint visit to Moscow by the holders of their offices since Churchill, who was also Defence Minister at the time, travelled to Russia with General Alanbrooke in 1944. They held over three hours of frank discussions with the Russian Defence Minister, General Shoigu, and the chief of staff, General Gerasimov, demonstrating how seriously we take Russia’s security concerns, how much we respect her history and how hard we are prepared to work to ensure peaceful co-existence.
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary delivered the same messages when she met her Russian counterpart in Moscow on 10 February. I have spoken on a number of occasions to President Putin since this crisis began, as has President Biden, while President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have both visited Moscow. Together we have explored every avenue and given Putin every opportunity to pursue his aims by negotiation and diplomacy.
I tell the House: we will not give up—we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution until the last possible moment—but we have to face the possibility that none of our messages has been heeded and that Putin is implacably determined to go further in subjugating and tormenting Ukraine. It is because we suspected as much that the UK and our allies repeatedly sounded the alarm about a possible new invasion, and we disclosed much of what we knew about Russia’s military build-up.
Britain has done everything possible to help Ukraine to prepare for another onslaught: training 22,000 soldiers, supplying 2,000 anti-tank missiles, and providing £100 million for economic reform and energy independence. We will now guarantee up to $500 million of Development Bank financing. I travelled to Kyiv to meet President Zelensky on 1 February and I saw him again in Munich at the weekend. I spoke to him last night, soon after President Putin’s speech, and assured him—as I am sure the whole House would agree was the right thing to do—of Britain’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Now the UK and our allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared, using the new and unprecedented powers granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin. Today the UK is sanctioning the following five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, Genbank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea bank. And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg. Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.
This is the first tranche—the first barrage—of what we are prepared to do, and we hold further sanctions at readiness to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further. Last night, our diplomats joined an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and we will raise the situation in the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
Let me emphasise what I believe unites every member of this House with equal determination: the resolve of the United Kingdom to defend our NATO allies is absolute and immovable. We have already doubled the size of our deployment in Estonia, where the British Army leads NATO’s battlegroup, and when I met President Levits of Latvia and Prime Minister Kallas of Estonia in Munich on Saturday, I told them that we would be willing to send more British forces to help protect our allies if NATO makes such a request.
We cannot tell what will happen in the days ahead, but we should steel ourselves for a protracted crisis. The United Kingdom will meet this challenge side by side with our allies, determined that we will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature where aggression pays and might is right. It is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin’s venture in Ukraine must ultimately fail—and must be seen to fail. That will require the perseverance, unity and resolve of the entire western alliance, and the UK will do everything possible to ensure that that unity is maintained.
Now our thoughts should turn to our valiant Ukrainian friends, who threaten no one and who ask for nothing except to live in peace and freedom. We will keep faith with them in the critical days that lie ahead, and whatever happens, Britain will not waver in our resolve. I commend this statement to the House.
Yesterday was a dark day for Europe. The Russian President denied the right of a sovereign nation to exist, unilaterally recognising separatist movements that he sponsors and that seek to dismember Ukraine. Then, under the cover of darkness, he sent in troops to enforce his will. Putin appears determined to plunge Ukraine into a wider war. We must all stand firm in our support for Ukraine. We support the freedom of her people and their right to determine their own future without the gun of an imperialist held to their head.
There can be no excuses for Russia’s actions. There is no justification for this aggression. A war in Ukraine will be bloody, it will cost lives, and history will rightly scorn Putin as the aggressor. Putin claims to fear NATO expansion, but Russia faces no conceivable threat from allied troops or from Ukraine. What he fears is openness and democracy. He knows that, given a choice, people will not choose to live under the rule of an erratic and violent authoritarian, so we must remain united and true to our values across this House and with our NATO allies. We must show Putin that we will not be divided.
I welcome the sanctions introduced today and the international community’s efforts to unite with a collective response. However, we must be prepared to go further. I understand the tactic of holding back sanctions on Putin and his cronies to try to deter an invasion of the rest of Ukraine, but a threshold has already been breached. A sovereign nation has been invaded in a war of aggression based on lies and fabrication. If we do not respond with a full set of sanctions now, Putin will once again take away the message that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs. We will work with the Prime Minister and our international allies to ensure that more sanctions are introduced.
Russia should be excluded from financial mechanisms, such as SWIFT, and we should ban trading in Russian sovereign debt. Putin’s campaign of misinformation should be tackled. Russia Today should be prevented from broadcasting its propaganda around the world. We should work with our European allies to ensure that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is cancelled. Whatever the sequencing of these sanctions, this will not be easy. Britain must work with our European allies to handle the disruption to the supply of energy and raw materials. We must defend ourselves and our allies against cyber-attacks. We must bring together the widest possible coalition of nations to condemn this action against a sovereign UN member state.
Ukrainians are defending their own country and democracy in Europe. We must stand ready with more military support for Ukraine to defend itself, and we must stand ready to do more to reassure and reinforce NATO allies in eastern Europe, but we must also get our own house in order. The Prime Minister said that the lesson from Russia’s 2014 invasion of Donbas is that we cannot just let Vladimir Putin get away it, but until now we have. We have failed to stop the flow of illicit Russian finance into Britain. A cottage industry does the bidding of those linked to Putin, and Russian money has been allowed to influence our politics. We have to admit that mistakes have been made, and we have to rectify them.
This must be a turning point. We need an end to oligarch impunity. We need to draw a line under Companies House providing easy cover for shell companies. We need to ensure that our anti-money-laundering laws are enforced. We need to crack down on spies, and we have to ensure that money is not pouring into UK politics from abroad.
Russian aggression has now torn up the Minsk protocol and the Budapest memorandum, but even at this late hour we must pursue diplomatic routes to prevent further conflict, so can the Prime Minister tell us what international diplomatic efforts are going on and what role the UK will have in that process? We know Putin’s playbook. He seeks division; we must stay united. He believes the benefits of aggression outweigh the consequences, so we must take a stand, and he believes the west is too corrupted to do the right thing, so we must prove him wrong. I believe we can, and I offer the support of the Opposition in that vital endeavour.
Can I thank the right hon. and learned Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, for the clarity with which he has just spoken and the support that he has given to the UK’s strategy in dealing with this crisis in Europe? I think, if I may say so, that that will be noted, and the change in the approach taken by the Opposition over the last couple of years is massively beneficial—[Interruption.] I think a fair-minded person would acknowledge that.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has raised some important questions, and they relate to the ways in which we clamp down on Russian money in the UK, and indeed throughout the west. This country was the first to publish a register of beneficial ownership, this country has led the way in cracking down on wealth that is unexplained and we are bringing forward an economic crime Bill to take forward further measures. The House should understand that it is absolutely vital that we hold in reserve further powerful sanctions, as I think the right hon. and learned Gentleman acknowledged, in view of what President Putin may do next.
We want to stop Russian companies being able to raise funds in sterling or indeed in dollars, we want to stop them raising funds on UK markets and we want to strip away the veil that conceals the ownership of property in this country, and indeed throughout the west. We will work with our friends and partners around the world to achieve that, and the sanctions we are implementing today are very tough. Promsvyazbank is a top 10 Russian bank, which services 70% of state contracts signed by the Russian Ministry of Defence, but the measures we have prepared are much tougher still, and we will have absolutely no hesitation in implementing them.
We will get on with the business of diplomacy, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman is absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of diplomacy now, in spite of everything that is happening on the borders of Ukraine and now in Donbas. There is a G7 meeting straight after this statement, and we will be holding meetings in NATO, in the P5 and in every forum where it is relevant and possible to bring President Putin to understand the gravity of what he is doing.
The UK will continue to offer support to our Ukrainian friends, and I do think it has been right for us to be out in front in offering military assistance—defensive military assistance—to the Ukrainians. I think that has been the right thing to do. I spoke last night to President Zelensky, who made further requests, and we will consider them. We are doing everything we can to offer support in the time that we have, and we will do that, and I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman seemed to support that as well.
It is absolutely vital at this critical moment that President Putin understands that what he is doing is going to be a disaster for Russia. It is clear from the response of the world to what he has done already in Donbas that he is going to end up with a Russia that is poorer as a result of the sanctions that the world will implement: a Russia that is more isolated, a Russia that has pariah status—no chance of holding football tournaments in a Russia that invades sovereign countries—and a Russia that is engaged in a bloody and debilitating conflict with a fellow Slav country. What an appalling result for President Putin. I hope that he steps back from the brink and does not conduct a full invasion, but in the meantime we must implement the tough package that we have put forward, and we will continue to offer the Ukrainian people all the support that we can.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and also the UK’s unwavering support for Ukrainian sovereignty at this gravest of times, which shows we can never take our eyes off Russia. But does my right hon. Friend share my concern that while the focus today is rightly on protecting Ukrainian independence and territorial integrity, what lies behind this is a wider worldwide trend of authoritarian states trying to impose their way of thinking on others, and that the battle in which we now must now engage is nothing more nor less than the defence of democracy itself?
My right hon. Friend is entirely right, and that is what is at stake. What is happening in Ukraine now is being watched around the world and the echoes will be heard in Taiwan, east Asia and throughout the world.
I thank the Prime Minister for advance sight of his statement and thank the National Security Adviser, who has briefed Opposition leaders.
This is a dark day for the people of Ukraine and for people right across our European continent. Europe stands on the brink of war as a consequence of Russian aggression. It is a day that communities across Scotland, right across these islands and indeed across Europe desperately hoped would never come to pass. But although that sense of darkness defines today, how we now collectively respond will define the days to come.
This Chamber has, especially during recent months, seen fierce debate and disagreements, but today it is important to say, in the face of Russian aggression against Ukraine, that in this House we all stand together: we stand together and stand with our partners across Europe and indeed across the globe. But more importantly, we stand with the Ukrainian people, who are now under assault. A European country—an ally—is under attack. We should be very clear about what is now happening: this is an illegal Russian occupation of Ukraine, just as it was in Crimea. Russia has effectively annexed another two Ukrainian regions in a blatant breach of international law. This effectively ends the Minsk process. It is a further violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. No one should even repeat the Russian lie that this is about peacekeeping; this is warmongering, plain and simple. President Putin must hear the call from here and elsewhere to draw back before any further escalation can take place.
I and my party welcome the sanctions that are now being brought forward, but it is deeply regrettable that the delay has allowed many Russian individuals to shift dirty assets and money in the last number of weeks. However, may I ask the Prime Minister specifically if the Russian state and individuals will be immediately suspended from the SWIFT payments system? Just as economic sanctions against Russia are welcome, Ukraine needs immediate economic and indeed humanitarian support if required. When will economic and humanitarian support be enacted and what will it entail? Can the Prime Minister also confirm that there will be exemptions for partners of UK citizens residing in Ukraine to come to the UK? They need that certainty and they need it today.
In the days ahead we can no doubt expect a barrage of disinformation from the Russian media and its proxies. So can the Prime Minister update us on how the United Kingdom Government intend to combat that threat? This is also the moment to end the complacency in implementing the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report; will the Prime Minister now commit to its full implementation and update the House accordingly?
Can I also ask the Prime Minister, after the UN Security Council’s brief meeting last night, when it will next meet and what co-ordination is happening across all international organisations to force President Putin to step back from the brink before it is too late?
Finally, let President Putin hear loudly and clearly that he must now desist from this act of war, this attack on a sovereign nation. Let us all demonstrate that we stand with the people of Ukraine.
I wholeheartedly thank the right hon. Gentleman for the terms in which he has just spoken and the unity and resolve he has just shown, in common with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The spirit this House is showing today is absolutely invaluable.
The right hon. Gentleman is right to raise questions about the speed with which we have been able to sanction various individuals. We brought forward the Magnitsky sanctions, as he knows, and he was important in that last year. We are bringing forward the registry of beneficial ownership faster than any other country, stripping away the veil on Russian dirty money. He asked about support for Ukraine; as I mentioned in the House, we have given £100 million-worth of support particularly for Ukraine’s energy crisis and also for other economic needs, plus the further $500 million I announced just now.
The diplomatic effort is now intensifying. The right hon. Gentleman asked about the forums in which it is taking place; there are more meetings in the UN. But ultimately, as he rightly says, this is up to Vladimir Putin: he and he alone can decide whether or not to halt what seems to be an absolutely irresistible march towards tragedy. It is down to him; it is in his head.
Order. I am expecting to run this statement until around 2 o’clock, so short questions and pithy answers would certainly be helpful.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement today and the actions of him and his Government over recent weeks. I pay particular tribute to the Defence Secretary, whose unfailing efforts in preparing not just the people of Ukraine but our allies in NATO for this aggression has been exemplary.
As we are talking about sanctions today, and rightly so, will my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister also commit to a foreign agents registration Act? We have seen the insidious work of the United Front for China, and indeed of different outfits for Russia, to undermine our democracy and threaten our way of life. Will he please bring in that Act, and while he is doing it will he finance much more the Russian service of the BBC so the Russian people can hear the truth, not the lies being spread by their own Government?
I thank my hon. Friend very much. The Russian service of the BBC has done an invaluable job and it is important that it continues to be financed. I will look at the details of its package. On his proposal for a foreign agent registration law, we are indeed considering what more we can do to counter threats to this country from within.
According to expert legal advice I have seen, there are serious flaws in the new sanctions regime: it may not affect oligarchs close to Putin who do not hold an official position in a company or who own less than 50% of shares; it is too narrow in defining the individuals it covers; unlike US legislation, it is limited in how we can sanction Russian Government officials; and the definition of “Government of Russia” excludes the legislative branch, including the Duma. That means that kleptocrats who have stolen from the Russian people and support Putin would not be caught. Of Navalny’s list of 35, only 13 would be caught: Abramovich, Usmanov, Timchenko and Deripaska would escape. Will the Prime Minister look again at the sanctions regime so that, in the words of the Foreign Secretary:
“Nothing is off the table”?—[Official Report, 31 January 2022; Vol. 708, c. 56.]
I understand the right hon. Lady’s concern but believe she is in error in what she says, because we can certainly target members of the Duma, Abramovich is already facing sanctions and in the announcements I have made today Gennady Timchenko, to whom she just referred, is specifically targeted; he is on the list, as are Boris Rotenberg and Igor Rotenberg. These are people who are very close to the Putin regime, but, as I said to the House, they are just part of the first barrage.
I welcome the Government’s efforts today, but Russia’s actions move us into a new and more dangerous phase of the crisis and require us to adopt a more robust, long-term approach to defending European security outside NATO’s borders. Sanctions alone will not be enough. Indeed, untargeted sanctions may play into Putin’s plan to pivot Russia ever closer to China. So would the Prime Minister agree that NATO must not be benched? It was created to uphold European security, and we must now consider how we utilise our formidable hard-power deterrence in responding to Ukraine’s calls for further help, not excluding the formation of a potential no-fly zone.
My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to place the emphasis he does on NATO, which has proved its value in the last 70 years. It is the pre-eminent, most successful alliance in history. It is a defensive alliance and we are now reinforcing it all across the eastern perimeter. What NATO is not doing—no NATO country is currently considering this—is sending combat troops to Ukraine, and he will understand the reasons for that, but that does not preclude support by NATO countries for Ukraine, including military support.
It is time to start treating Russia like the rogue state it is. I strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement in this darkest of moments and recognise the Leader of the Opposition for his strong cross-party support. In that cross-party spirit, I urge the Prime Minister to go further today and commit to the following. First, freeze and begin seizing the assets of every single one of Putin’s cronies in the UK and expel these oligarchs from our country as part of a much stronger sanctions regime. Secondly, recognise the existential threat posed by Putin to our NATO allies by immediately cancelling his misguided decision to cut our armed forces by 10,000 troops. Thirdly, no longer tolerate international sporting or cultural events hosted in Russia. Will he confirm what I think he implied in answer to a previous question, that he will push for this year’s champions league final to be moved from St Petersburg? President Putin has made a terrible decision. Will the Prime Minister ensure that he pays a terrible price?
Yes. Again, I am grateful to the right hon. Member and the Liberal Democrats for their support of the position that we are taking. We are indeed cracking down on ill-gotten gains in London and on the cronies of Vladimir Putin, as I detailed, and there is more to come. On defence spending, the right hon. Member should acknowledge that the recent increase was the biggest since the end of the cold war. On his point about sporting events, as I said, I think it inconceivable that major international football tournaments can take place in Russia after the invasion of a sovereign country.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that too many NATO Governments and political parties have accepted energy dependence on Putin and financial dependence on dodgy donations from Russian oligarchs? Given that we spent between 4.5% and 5% of GDP on defence throughout the 1980s until the end of the cold war, will he now accept 3% of GDP on defence as a suitable future benchmark?
My right hon. Friend is completely right to say that we have failed to wean ourselves off dependence on Russian hydrocarbons since 2014. That has been a tragic mistake by European countries. In the UK, we are in the fortunate position of having only 3% of our gas coming from Russia, but other European countries have learned that they have much more to do. By the way, I salute the decision of the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to cancel Nord Stream 2. It is a brave step by Olaf and the right thing to do. On my right hon. Friend’s point about defence spending, actually we are up at 2.4% of GDP—I think that is one of the highest figures in NATO—and we are the second biggest contributor and military power in NATO already.
America is key in all this. It is the largest economy and has the largest forces in NATO. We were honoured yesterday to have Nancy Pelosi in the Gallery. She is very close to the President of the United States. Did the Prime Minister have a chance to talk to her? It is wonderful to have cross-party unity in the House, but that is not enough. We need the United States to be firm in leadership with us.
I did have a chance to talk to Nancy Pelosi and her bipartisan delegation. The sentiments expressed by Members of this House today were very much shared by that delegation of Congressmen and women.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. The UK Government have behaved with integrity and honour throughout the crisis. I echo his welcoming of Chancellor Scholz’s brave decision today to freeze Nord Stream 2. However, sanctions can only achieve so much when dealing with an undemocratic state and someone like Putin. What we are witnessing is the real-time cannibalisation of a European democratic state bite by bite. Ultimately, we will have either to ensure that Ukraine is given the means to defend itself from future aggression, or give some sort of security guarantee. Otherwise, we will find Russian troops on the borders of Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Hungary, which would be an absolute failure of western policy.
My right hon. Friend has recently written and spoken powerfully about the subject and he is completely right that we will have to dig in for the long term to support Ukraine in every way that we can: economically, diplomatically, by the provision of military support in the way that we are already. It will take time, but to return to the point I made in my statement: it is vital that President Putin should fail. I believe that he will fail because the giant facts are against him. He is taking on Ukrainian national feeling and in the end he will not succeed. We will help the Ukrainians to succeed.
The Prime Minister will know that part of the calculation of the Kremlin and President Putin is that the west will lose interest, as unfortunately we have in the past. Can he make it one of his key tasks to ensure that our allies are there for the long run? We have to be there until this is brought to a proper conclusion.
The hon. Member is completely right. The biggest threat is apathy and indifference. That is why what my right hon. Friend the Member for Maidenhead (Mrs May) said was so important. This is about not just Ukraine but democracy and the security of many other European countries—indeed, countries around the world. That is what is at stake here today.
I commend my right hon. Friend and his colleagues for their stalwart action so far. The fact is, Mr Lavrov said today that Ukraine does not have a right to sovereignty, so the scale of the ambition is surely clear to anyone who doubted it. I commend what he has done so far but, if we are going to hit them with sanctions, we need to hit them hard and hit them now. They need to feel the pain of the first part of this decision. Secondly, what is the ultimatum to them now? If they move further, are we going to take further action? We are facing the growth of the axis of totalitarian states. China will watch this and look at Taiwan. How we behave now and what we do as an alliance will dictate what happens in the far east.
We are hitting them hard now and we will hit them harder in the future. With every day that goes by on which Russia violates the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine, we will continue to punish Russia. In the end, I do not believe that President Putin has thought this through and I do think that he will fail.
Putin, as I have been saying for many years, is a bloodthirsty liar. When his ambassador came to the House a couple of weeks ago to talk to the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, he said it was absolutely preposterous that anybody could possibly suggest that any Russian troops would be going into Ukraine. That was a lie—not an inadvertent lie, a deliberate lie. But my anxiety is that we are not going anywhere near far enough today. In 2014, we were spineless in the end. We did not show enough resolve across the west or in the UK. We did not close down the dirty money process coming into the UK. I do not think Abramovich has been sanctioned, incidentally, just to correct the Prime Minister. I do not think he has been sanctioned yet at all. What the former leader of the Conservative party, the right hon. Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith), just said is really important. Everybody in this House will work closely with the Government to deliver far more effective and secure sanctions if the Prime Minister asks, but they have to be now. We have to close the dirty Russian money down.
The Government are already implementing a draconian package of sanctions and we will go further. We are bringing forward the economic crime Bill and the register of beneficial interests. In addition to all the things I have announced today, we will be bringing forward further measures to hit Russian individuals and Russian companies of strategic importance to Russia, stopping Russian companies from raising money on London markets and stopping them even trading in pounds and dollars. These will bite, these will hurt and these will make a huge difference. But the House also needs to understand that President Putin’s failure will not just be caused by sanctions implemented by us and by our friends. His failure will also result from the determination of the Ukrainians to resist. In that, we will support them.
I welcome the sanctions and the Government’s significant efforts to expose false flag operations, but rouble by rouble we must rid our nation of Putin’s dirty money because of his acts overnight and those lives already lost. I urge my right hon. Friend to blacklist all Russian banks, to ban the City and law and accountancy firms from servicing all Russian state firms, to work with Turkey to deny the Russian navy access to the Bosphorus and to ensure we have an atrocity prevention strategy in place for when the paramilitaries go in alongside the peacekeepers.
That is exactly why the UK has been out in front of our European friends in dealing with Russian dirty money and in implementing the toughest possible package of sanctions. As I told the House, we will go further.
These are perilous times for our friends in Ukraine, a democracy within our continent. Short of sending British troops there, we must provide them with every possible support. I am glad the Prime Minister is talking tough and taking a strong stand against continued Russian aggression and imperialism, but when will he stop playing tennis with Russian oligarchs in exchange for money for the Conservative party? Instead of talking about sanctions abroad, when will he finally help to clean up things closer to home, including fully implementing the recommendations of the Russia report?
The Government, as I said, are way out in front of our European friends and partners in what we are doing to implement sanctions on Russian entities. That is the right thing and I think that is where the House is today. We will continue to do that. Yes, it is absolutely vital that nobody should contribute to a political party in this country unless they are a UK national. That is what this Government insist upon. But may I just respectfully say—I have been listening to some of the contributions this morning—that we should not allow our indignation and rage at what is happening in Ukraine to spill over into casual Russophobia? I do not want to see us discriminating against Russians as people or simply on the basis of their nationality.
I commend my right hon. Friend for his prescience and resolve on Ukraine, and also that of the Defence Secretary. Can he confirm that escalating economic sanctions against Russia and fully effective defensive support for Ukraine can never be allowed to fail, given that Russia and President Putin’s aggression affects all its European neighbours and has an ever-increasing global reach, including even in places such as Africa?
My hon. Friend is completely right. The threat is not just to Europe. The threat from an aggressive and expansionist Russian agenda is everywhere, including in Africa from the Wagner group. It is up to the UK now to push back and that is what we are going to do.
Will the Prime Minister tell the House now whether the sanctions he has announced will actually put into effect the Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report, and whether he has full confidence that they will close down the so-called London laundromat, which is laundering dirty Russian money straight through the City?
The hon. Lady will have understood from what I said earlier that what we are proposing to do will go further than that report. We are cracking down today on Russian banks and individuals. We are proposing to stop Russian companies even raising money in London and to stop them trading in sterling. That was not recommended by the report she mentions, but that will do real economic damage where it is necessary to do it.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and the sanctions against Russia, but does he agree that we cannot continue to relearn the lessons of the past when it comes to drawing a line and being willing to hold that line militarily? He has increased defence spending beyond the level it has been for many years, and I congratulate him on that, but the argument has always been that it must be tailored to meet the threat. As the German Chancellor mentioned this morning, that threat is changing. Will the Prime Minister commit to keeping an eye on defence spending to ensure that if we are asked to do so, we can hold a line and lead NATO in the way that I know he wants to lead it?
I thank my hon. Friend very much; he is absolutely right to draw attention to defence spending. It is great that the German Chancellor also now sees the importance of that. For a long time, my hon. Friend and I have been campaigning for Germany to shoulder more of the cost of defence in Europe, and that is a good thing. We have seen massive increases in our defence spending, but we want to make sure it is targeted on things such as tackling cyber and disinformation and all the modern forms of warfare in which Putin specialises.
I welcome the sanctions announced today on the five banks and the three named individuals. However, the Prime Minister will be well aware that there are many, many oligarchs who would, at face value, have huge wealth and huge assets in their own names, but that that wealth and those assets are absolutely in the gift of the Russian state and at the beck and call of the Russian state. Will he confirm that the sanctions we will be discussing and agreeing later today intend to ensure that those trusted custodians of Russian state money are able to be sanctioned in the way the three individuals named today are being sanctioned?
Yes. We will be able to sanction oligarchs, associates of President Putin and companies of strategic importance to the Kremlin.
I really welcome the Prime Minister’s statement today and in particular the level of cross-House agreement that we must stand up to Russian aggression. I also welcome the decision by Chancellor Scholz to suspend Nord Stream 2. It always was an incredibly risky project, allowing great exposure to Russian gas. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that he is already considering what more can be done to protect our allies and friends in eastern Europe from the inevitable consequences of the risky position in which we find ourselves, in the dead of winter, with so much dependence on Russian gas?
The answer is that we need to work together to wean ourselves off and end the dependency on Russian gas. The House knows all the things we are doing to support our eastern European allies militarily, but we also need to share technology, particularly in renewables, to allow them to find a different future.
Whether the sanctions that the Prime Minister just announced will “hit Russia…hard”, as he said this morning, only time will tell, but he also said:
“there is a lot more that we are going to do in the event of an invasion”.
The Prime Minister has just told the House that he regards what happened overnight as a renewed invasion of Ukraine. If that is the Government’s view, why is he waiting and not imposing full sanctions on Russia now?
The right hon. Gentleman makes a couple of points. The House will have heard me on this issue several times; I have been very clear that we wanted to have the biggest possible package of sanctions ready to go in the event of a Russian toe-cap crossing into more sovereign Ukrainian territory. We will also make sure that we implement the waves of sanctions in concert with our allies; that is what we are doing.
While thanking my right hon. Friend for his statement, may I ask him to reflect on the fact that President Putin has already achieved so much of what he set out to achieve? He may have no intention of launching a full-scale invasion of Ukraine, but he has already committed the crimes that deserve the most severe punishment from the free world. What are we going to do to continue to strengthen and unify NATO, which is exactly what he did not want his policy to achieve?
My hon. Friend is completely right. What Putin has succeeded in doing is to greatly unify NATO and produce a much bigger commitment by not just the UK but other major European powers to the reinforcement of NATO’s eastern frontier. The French are doubling down in Romania. We are doubling down in Estonia. He is going to get much more NATO, not less.
For over a decade, Russia has been mounting cyber-attacks on our critical national infrastructure and commercial interests, and there were no consequences. For over a decade, Russia has been swirling dirty money around the City of London, and there were no consequences. In order for Vladimir Putin to understand that he has now gone too far, he needs to be certain that if sanctions and diplomatic means do not succeed, there will be consequences. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that those consequences need still to be on the table and that Vladimir Putin needs to understand that they will be used?
The right hon. Gentleman is completely right. We need to make it absolutely clear to Russia that as a result of this ill-conceived and disastrous venture in Ukraine, Putin’s country will end up, as I said, poorer, more encircled by NATO, engaged in a disastrous conflict with fellow Slavs and as a pariah state. That is what President Putin is willing on his people: a pariah state—that is what it will become.
There is more at stake than just sanctions; we have various international protocols that have been drafted literally over decades, going back to the last war. Where does this incursion into Ukraine leave us with those protocols and how can we enforce any further measures against any breaches of them?
My hon. Friend is completely right, because this action tears up the 1994 Budapest memorandum. It makes an absolute nonsense of the whole Minsk process—the agreement of 2014. That is ripped up, too. International law has been mocked by what President Putin has done, and that is what is at stake: democracy and the rule of law across the world.
Putin last night confirmed that he is a ruthless imperialist posed to destroy Ukraine’s sovereignty and self-determination. I, too, am grateful for the briefing from the National Security Adviser. We must now hit Putin where it hurts. As of this morning, BP’s website proudly proclaims that it is
“one of the biggest foreign investors in Russia”,
owning nearly 20% of Russia’s oil giant, Rosneft. Rosneft also has a secondary holding in London. Will the Prime Minister commit to imposing legally mandated divestment by UK firms in Russia, and if not now, when?
We have to recognise the lesson of 2014, which is that we have to move away from a dependence on Russian hydrocarbons, and the Government will pursue policies to that end.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Defence Secretary on their brilliant work at this very difficult time. Mr Putin is a bully, and bullies recognise only one thing: military force. If we are to fight for the freedom that we claim to hold so dear, we have to pay to defend it. Will my right hon. Friend go back to the EU and NATO, in particular, and say that we have to raise our spending budgets to at least 3% to have more planes, more ships and more men to deter Russia and not to wage war, but to prevent one from happening?
My hon. Friend is completely right. The British Government are continually exhorting our European friends to exceed the 2% threshold. It would be a great thing if we could get some of them up to 2%, never mind 3%.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and welcome the sanctions against the three individuals that he has named. However, the regulations that he referred to, which will be discussed later today, will be effective only if there is the political will to implement them. Proposed new regulation 6(4) of the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 defines an individual as being
“involved in obtaining a benefit from or supporting the Government of Russia”.
The right hon. Member for Dundee East (Stewart Hosie) said—and this is a fact—that oligarchs who are operating in this country with property are supporting the Russian Government financially and politically. Will we bring sanctions against those individuals? The Prime Minister named Abramovich, but he is one of many.
Yes. We will target any individual or company of strategic importance to Russia.
I warmly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement and I commend the west for seeing through the Orwellian doublespeak of Putin and his cronies. I agree with my right hon. Friend about a staged approach to sanctions, but now that we have an incursion into Donetsk and Luhansk, is not the next stage to demand an immediate withdrawal by Russia from those regions? If there is not one, further sanctions must follow as a direct consequence.
Yes; my right hon. and learned Friend is completely right. There should be an immediate withdrawal by Russia. I wish I could be confident that that will happen, but I am afraid that all the omens are pointing in the opposite direction, and I think that the House will need to consider a much bigger package of sanctions and further measures of all kinds.
The Polish Government have said that they must be prepared to accept up to 1 million refugees displaced by conflict or fleeing for fear of persecution, yet last week, when our Foreign Secretary was asked about accepting Ukrainian refugees, she said that
“we can’t make any commitments about any refugees at this stage.”
Amid conflict, we must always put direct support for people first, so will the Government commit today to accepting all Ukrainian refugees who wish to come to the UK as well as those persecuted in Russia for their resistance to war and Putin’s regime?
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her question. We are helping the countries that are directly vulnerable to an exodus of refugees from Ukraine. We have put another 1,000 troops on stand-by, and this country will continue to do what it has always done and receive those who are fleeing in fear of persecution. That is what we will do.
I strongly support the robust approach that my right hon. Friend has taken, and that indeed he took as Foreign Secretary, but Putin will have predicted and discounted western sanctions long ago. Does my right hon. Friend agree that if we are not to be behind in the diplomatic chess game, we need to do some things that Putin is not expecting? First, we need a sustained increase in western defence capability and spend. Secondly, we need a sustained reduction in the ability of the Russian state to finance its own armed forces. We need economic and financial sanctions that last not just until the next Government decide to have a reset, but if necessary for as long as this dangerous man remains President of Russia.
We have seen a 10% increase in defence spending in this country, and we will sustain that increase in defence spending. My right hon. Friend is absolutely right about the financing of Putin’s armed forces; the tragedy is that they have been financed from the proceeds of the sale of Russian oil and gas to western European nations. That is what has got to end.
It is vital to stand in solidarity with Ukraine, in the face of outrageous Russian aggression, with robust, far-reaching sanctions and by closing down London’s money laundering machine now. Frankly, sanctions on five banks and three oligarchs are not anywhere near enough.
We must also recognise the extent of Russian meddling in our own politics. Will the Prime Minister stop studiously ignoring the Intelligence and Security Committee’s “Russia” report, which found credible evidence of attempts to interfere with the UK’s election processes? Will he finally commit to an independent and comprehensive investigation?
We are going further than the “Russia” report in implementing sanctions against Russia. Of course we will do anything to root out any foreign influence in any UK election, but I am not aware of any.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement. Tough sanctions require tough compliance. He said that UK individuals and entities should not have any dealings with the banks and Russian individuals that he mentioned. Will he therefore give this House an assurance that for any UK individuals or institutions who have dealings with such banks and individuals, there will be the severest of penalties?
Yes, indeed. Those who abet sanctioned people, help them to evade anti-money laundering provisions or help them to conceal beneficial interests will of course be breaking the law themselves.
The three oligarchs whom the Prime Minister has sanctioned today have been sanctioned by the United States for four years. We need to do better than that. Will the Prime Minister re-examine the operation of unexplained wealth orders, not a single one of which has been issued since he became Prime Minister? Will he publish a list of all the Russians who have obtained fast-track visas for residency, as he referred to earlier, by giving cash to the UK Exchequer?
The National Crime Agency is pursuing many investigations against people, on unexplained wealth orders. On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about visas, we are stopping tier 1 visas from Russia.
May I press the Prime Minister a little on his answer to the right hon. Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn)? I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, its robust approach and his confirmation that what President Putin has done amounts to an invasion of Ukraine, with the necessary measures that follow. In answer to the right hon. Gentleman, however, the Prime Minister seemed to suggest that if what Vladimir Putin has done is limited to these alleged breakaway republics, that is a line, and he has to do something else to trigger further sanctions. Will the Prime Minister confirm that what President Putin has already done means that we will follow up with further and stronger measures even if he does no more?
I think that it is inevitable, given what is happening in Ukraine and on the borders of Ukraine, that we will be coming forward with a much bigger package of sanctions. What we have today is an opening barrage that we are doing in common with our friends and allies.
The Prime Minister’s focus will rightly be on the here and now, but when he finds a moment to reflect on the recent failures in Afghanistan and the overwhelmingly clear fact that Russia was, is and will continue to be the greatest threat to peace and security in Europe, I wonder whether he might conclude that the Indo-Pacific tilt, as outlined in the integrated review, will need to be reassessed.
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman brings up the integrated review. He will see that very early on in it we say clearly that the Euro-Atlantic theatre is our No. 1 issue of concern.
I welcome the statement and commend the Prime Minister and his Government on their robust approach, but I hope that he will take away from today’s exchanges the strong cross-party support for tougher sanctions now, because they are what is needed. Given the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the fact that we have now entered a new era in the battle for democracy globally, will he now consider a substantial and sustained increase in defence spending, well above the 2.4% that is required to ensure stability and peace in our time? Jaw-jaw, if indeed there is room for it in future, will be more effective with stronger armed forces.
I am proud of the very substantial uplift that we have been able to provide in our defence spending. We are the fastest-growing economy in the G7 as a result of the measures that this Government have taken. I am confident that we will be able to continue to give our armed forces the investment that they need.
Ukraine has been experiencing conflict since 2014, which has created a crisis of 2.9 million people in need. Will the Prime Minister please confirm that the UK stands ready to work with the Government of Ukraine and with international partners in providing humanitarian assistance should the conflict be exacerbated?
Yes, of course.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. I am calling today for the suspension of Russia from the Council of Europe. It cannot be right for a country to have violated the human rights of another member of the Council of Europe so profoundly. Will he support my actions?
I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he does in the Council of Europe and for the robust positions that he takes in that body. I wholeheartedly support what he has just said.
Russian disinformation networks, including RT—the Leader of Opposition makes the right call on RT’s licence—are critical not just to justifying Russia’s aggression internationally, but to maintaining it. How much longer will this country continue to pretend that outfits such as RT are some kind of benign equivalent of the World Service or France 24? They are not. It is time they went.
I think that the hon. Gentleman’s view will be widely shared, although perhaps not by everybody on the Opposition Benches, but we have an independent regulator of the media. We do not live in a country where politicians can close down media outlets. It is up to Ofcom to rule.
Following on from the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), the Prime Minister is well aware that I am a group leader in the Council of Europe. Our group has Ukrainians who are now under threat, and whose families are under threat. They will be on the list that the US has now given, with—dare I say it—intelligence on what will happen to them. We must stand by those democrats. They are good people. I have worked with them for 10 years and have nothing but praise for them. Does the Prime Minister agree that the Council of Europe and other such organisations need to stand up for democracy and stand up for democrats?
Yes. I thank my hon. Friend for everything that he is doing in the Council of Europe. We should stand by democratic Ukrainian politicians. We all know them; we have all met them. All they want to do is live in peace and freedom, and we should work together to ensure that they can.
Many Syrians will know that the continuation of Putin’s aggression was not only predictable, but predicted on both sides of this House. Does the Prime Minister agree that, as was true in relation to Syria, the only response to aggression is co-ordinated international resolve matched by every possible action at home, including each of the actions explained by the Leader of the Opposition?
I think the lesson from Syria is that it is not possible to will the end of a regime without being willing to will the means. That is what this Government are prepared to do, and if that is what the Leader of the Opposition is now committing Labour to, so much the better.
Ukraine is not NATO’s border yet; it is not the EU’s border yet; but it is democracy’s border today. As you will know, Mr Speaker, having met the Ukrainian President some months ago here, the House stands in full solidarity with our counterparts in the Rada and the people of Ukraine, including the people of Donetsk and Luhansk.
The Prime Minister mentioned NATO members. May I ask him what further reassurance and practical support we can give NATO members such as Poland and the Baltic states, which today are just a little bit more fearful?
My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the Baltic states and Poland. As he knows, in Poland we have increased our support with another 350 Royal Marines from 45 Commando, and in Estonia we have doubled our presence in Tapa to 2,000. We are doing more in the high north, as well as in Romania and elsewhere, and we will continue to keep all these projects under constant review, but we and other European countries are stiffening the eastern frontier of NATO.
Five banks and three of Putin’s cronies are being sanctioned, but two of those have already been sanctioned by the United States. This is not us working in concert—this is us already behind. The Prime Minister has said that there will be more sanctions to come, so can he be clear with us: what is the trigger?
I think it inevitable that there will be more sanctions to come, because I am afraid I think it inevitable that Vladimir Putin will continue his flagrant violation of international law. What we are doing today is the first barrage that we are orchestrating in concert with our friends and partners, while keeping something in reserve, because there must still be the possibility that we can avert a hideous outbreak of bloodshed in Ukraine.
The Prime Minister is right to say that Ukraine has been invaded by Russia. I think that Members on both sides of the House were expecting stronger sanctions to be announced today, and I think that perhaps that is what the Government wanted to do, but the Prime Minister said that he had to move in lockstep with our other allies. Was there resistance from other allies to the introduction of full sanctions today?
Different countries have different priorities and considerations. It is considerably easier for us to impose economic sanctions, and it is difficult for some other countries to impose sanctions to block hydrocarbons, but I am very pleased by the progress that the German Government have made.
This is a day of infamy in Russian history, but the truth is that we are here today because our strategy of deterrence has failed. President Putin has built an arsenal of kleptocracy—he perverts history for his pretexts, and he perverts science for his weapons—but the risk is that today’s slap on the wrist will not deter him from doing anything further. Apart from the Magnitsky sanctions, sanctions for economic crimes have not been proposed since 2014; the oligarchs listed have been sanctioned by the Americans since 2018; and missing from the list were VTB, VEB, Alfa and Sberbank. The Prime Minister has to recognise that pulling our punches does not work with President Putin. We need to punch harder, and if we are not prepared to send bombers, we should at least take on the bankers.
We certainly are taking on the bankers. We are hitting Russia’s financial interests, and we will continue to hit them harder.
Eighty-five years ago, a predecessor of the Prime Minister talked about “a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing”. Does not the concordance between both sides of the House today demonstrate that that is not the case when it comes to Ukraine?
My hon. Friend is so right. I think that everyone who knows people in the Ukrainian community in Britain, which is so large and so active and makes such a fantastic contribution to our life, feels a huge amount of sympathy for the people of Ukraine today. This is a country with which we have familiarity and which we understand. It is a country that is a democracy and shares our values. That is what is at stake today.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement, and for all he has said today. As we have woken to the disturbing news of Russian aggression, does he not agree that economic sanctions, while welcome, will not be enough? Is he prepared to underline the steps that have been taken with NATO allies to assess the situation and to stress that membership of NATO is not a prerequisite for us in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to support democracy in whatever way is deemed necessary?
The hon. Gentleman is right: it is up to the people of Ukraine to decide what alliance they aspire to join. NATO’s open-door policy should remain absolutely inviolate.
I strongly support the Government’s approach. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant) said, this is not a faraway country of which we know nothing. However, may I ask what assessment the Government have made of the impact of the war on energy prices and oil prices, and the subsequent impact on people at home? What measures can they introduce to mitigate those factors, given that, as we know, the war is likely to increase the cost of living for ordinary folk throughout the country?
My right hon. Friend is right: one of the risks of Putin’s venture is that there could be a spike in gas and oil prices. We in the Government will do everything we can to mitigate that and to help the people of this country, but it is one of the reasons why the whole of western Europe must end its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
May I ask the Prime Minister to place on record his respect and admiration for those brave men and women, the OSCE monitors who for eight years have been on the border with Ukraine and who now face an impossible position, with a democratic member state under attack from a fellow member state? May I also ask whether he can predict where we will be by July, when we speak as a member of the UK delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly? We will be the host nation at the big jamboree in Birmingham. Two of the Russian delegates are on our sanctions list. If not now, when? The Prime Minister needs to act.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for what she is doing with the OSCE and the monitoring operation. I have met members of the OSCE monitoring unit, and I think they do an amazing job. Sadly, because of the threat and the duty of care that we have to them, we have asked them to step back temporarily. Let us hope we are in a better position by July—let us hope—but at the moment things are not looking good.
I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s resolute and clear-sighted statement. Does he agree that one of the things that Putin is looking for at the moment is any hint or sign of division or variance among members of the western alliance, and that it is therefore important right now to invest the time to go the extra mile and ensure that our allies, across Europe and including America, speak with one voice in the same way that we have spoken with one voice from the House this afternoon?
I thank my right hon. Friend for what he has said. There has been a lot of commentary today about whether we should have gone further and gone with the whole package of sanctions unilaterally today, but one of the reasons we wanted to work in lockstep with our friends was to reinforce that message of unity and resolve in the west.
I do think it is the majority view in the House that the Government should be going further today on the level of sanctions, but may I press the Prime Minister on the issue of refugees? In the event of further Russian aggression in Ukraine, we are likely to see a surge. Can the Prime Minister assure me that that will not be left purely to the neighbouring countries of eastern Europe and that there will be a genuine effort throughout Europe, including the UK, to provide assistance—including assistance here—and that there is proper contingency planning in Whitehall as well as consultation with our allies?
The best way to avoid a refugee crisis is for President Putin to de-escalate, and the best way to get him to de-escalate is for the west to be united. That is why we are implementing the package of sanctions that I have described, together with our friends.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that just eight years ago this month 100 Ukrainian citizens died under sniper fire in the Maidan protest against the pro-Russian corrupt Administration of Viktor Yanukovych? Does he agree that the courage and the willingness of Ukrainians to give their lives in the fight for freedom and democracy in their country demonstrates that any further invasion is bound to lead to horrendous bloodshed on both sides?
My right hon. Friend is right. Since those demonstrations, 14,000 Ukrainians have died fighting for their freedom. He knows that country well, and he knows that it will continue to defend itself and fight for liberty.
The simple truth is that whatever else Putin does in the next few days he has already invaded another sovereign country. The Prime Minister has spoken about this being a first round of sanctions with potentially more to follow. Can we be absolutely clear that that further round of sanctions is not dependent on Putin going into western Ukraine and attacking there, that it is simply a matter of trying to co-ordinate with our allies on this and that we can expect that further round of sanctions in the next few days?
Just to be absolutely clear, I know that the House wants us to hit Putin with absolutely everything that we have today, but what we want to do is prioritise unity among the alliance and among our friends and work in lockstep with them. There will be more to come.
I welcome the statement from my right hon. Friend, because sanctions from countries all around the world will without question hurt Russia. However, given the events overnight, Russia appears to feel that this is a price worth paying. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that, with increased deployments to Poland, Estonia and Cyprus, we will do whatever is necessary—including militarily, if needed—to support NATO and our friends in Ukraine as this crisis develops?
Yes of course we will, because what is at stake is not just the future of Ukraine but our principles and our values.
I come back to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) and the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland). The Prime Minister has been resolute about how wrong President Putin is in the actions he has taken, but it feels as though the message President Putin will be hearing from us is that the incursions that have gone on so far have had a proportionate response and that nothing else will happen unless he goes further. The Prime Minister is already speaking about an expectation that he will go further. Should we not instead say that further sanctions will be coming unless we get a withdrawal of the invasions that have already taken place? Should not that be the message that he takes from this House, given that there is clearly widespread support for it?
Of course. I want to be clear that the reason we are doing it in this way is because I think that the unity of the west is the priority.
I am proud to represent a vibrant Ukrainian community across Huddersfield and my own constituency. I know that, as we speak here today, they will be deeply fearful for the safety and democratic freedoms of their friends and families back in Ukraine. Will the Prime Minister commit to unleashing the toughest possible sanctions on Russia and continue to support our NATO allies militarily in eastern Europe?
Yes, I can certainly make that commitment, and I know that that has the support of the whole House.
The Prime Minister is right when he says that democracy is at stake, including our democracy. The Intelligence and Security Committee’s Russia report sets out the challenge clearly. Can I ask the Prime Minister specifically what he proposes to bring forward to ensure that Putin’s dirty money is not filling the pockets of UK political parties?
As the hon. Lady knows, you cannot give money to UK political parties if you are a foreign national.
Without the courage and ambition of Franklin Roosevelt’s lend-lease programme, Britain and the Soviet Union might not have been able to resist Nazi aggression in 1941. Can the Ukrainian people depend on the United Kingdom and our allies in Europe and north America to provide similar extensive support so that they might be able to resist further Russian aggression?
Yes, and in every conversation I have had in the last few weeks and months about Ukraine, we have focused on this issue of supporting the Ukrainian economy. One of the reasons that Volodymyr Zelensky has been so reluctant to accept the idea of even the possibility of an invasion is precisely because of the threat to Ukrainian economic stability. We must shore up that country, and that is why I announced a further $500 million of support today from the UK Government.
I thank the Foreign Office and the Minister for Europe and North America for helping me last week when my constituents Alice Wood and Ben Garratt were stuck in Ukraine and needed to get back with their baby son Raphael and were issued with emergency travel documents. Following on from that, can I ask the Prime Minister whether he has made an assessment of the safety of British nationals who are stuck in Ukraine and whether he will relax immigration laws and expedite visa applications to ensure that they can return home safely if they wish to do so?
I am glad that the FCDO was able to help out. We have a dedicated helpline for family members and anybody who is concerned. I think there are about 1,100 currently still in Ukraine, and there is a helpline that people should ring. I will read out the number. It is 01908 516666. There you go!
I pay tribute to the Prime Minister for the robust steps he has taken and for the co-ordinating role that he is playing across the western world. Does he agree that last night’s events should be seen in the context of Crimea, Salisbury and cyber-attacks as well as of the threat of gas supply restrictions? Can he reassure us that he will continue to play a co-ordinating role to ensure that the western world is absolutely as one in its response?
Absolutely. We already have a huge range of sanctions. I think that there are 275 Russian individuals who are already sanctioned, including many of those who were responsible for or linked with the Salisbury poisonings, the illegal activity in Chechnya, the poisoning of Alexei Navalny and other episodes.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement, but Russia is a mafia state and Putin is the godfather—the capo di tutti i capi. He will not change until his capi—his under-bosses—force him to change, and they will not do that until we pull the financial rug from under their feet. We are in a unique position to do that. If the Prime Minister is not willing to put further sanctions at the forefront now, will he at least confirm to the House that he has asked the relevant agencies to ensure that we are bang up to date on all Russian assets, not just dirty ones, so that we can put those sanctions on as soon as he decides to do so?
Yes we are, and we are in a position to impose considerable economic cost on Putin. The question is whether he will care enough about it, because he is plainly in an illogical and irrational frame of mind.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement, and his and this Government’s leadership in defending democracy and freedom and standing by our Ukrainian allies, showing what global Britain is all about. Sadly, my constituency is home to too much Russian dirty money and I welcome the further sanctions. As the children of Ukraine are set to suffer in fear of war, will my right hon. Friend consider whether the children of Russians connected to the Kremlin, who may be in schools in this country, should be sent home to Russia and not allowed to benefit from an education in this country?
I know that my hon. Friend shares my concern about beneficial ownership of properties in London, which we will now be exposing. I am grateful for her support for that. When it comes to children, maybe I am not quite there. The sins of the fathers—or indeed the mothers—should not be visited on their children, in my view.
There is increasing nervousness about the risk of cyber-attacks from hostile states, particularly on our vital public services. Can the Prime Minister outline any additional protections the Government will put in place to ensure that our public services do not fall victim to Russian aggression?
The hon. Lady is completely right. One of the things that this House will have to consider in the weeks ahead, as we continue to lead the world in our support for Ukraine, is the blowback for this country. We must be absolutely frank that there will be cyber-attacks. We must understand that and be prepared for it, which is why we are investing massively in cyber-preparedness, with another £2.6 billion to help fortify our defences. As the House knows, there are many vulnerable parts of our system, and we must protect them.
I commend the Prime Minister’s statement. There are significant numbers of UK armed forces personnel in Estonia as part of Operation Cabrit, and I know that everyone in this House is enormously grateful to them for their work. I am reassured that we have already increased our forward presence in Estonia, but will my right hon. Friend confirm that he will continue to give our armed forces all the resource they might need over the coming weeks and months?
Yes, we certainly will. It was very good to talk to Prime Minister Kallas of Estonia the other day about Operation Cabrit and the UK troops at Tapa. She warmly welcomes them and the increase in their numbers, and she says that they are impeccably behaved—they are now, anyway.
This is the final question.
Three weeks ago, the Prime Minister said that sanctions would
“come down like a steel trap in the event of the first Russian toecap crossing into more sovereign Ukrainian territory.”
I wonder whether he will answer me and the First Minister of Scotland, who believe that it appears that they will not. If this is the first tranche, there need to be further tranches with much tougher action soon.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for accurately reciting what I said, because that is what we are doing. We are now sanctioning them very heavily for what they are doing in Donbas, where Russian activity has long been present. Together with our friends and partners, we are going to bring forward further measures that I think will hit the Russian economy very hard. I understand the House’s desire to do everything on day one, but we should make sure that we work in unison with our friends and partners, because what Putin wants above all is to divide us, and in that he must not succeed.