Before we come to the Prime Minister’s statement, I point out that the British Sign Language interpretation of proceedings is available to watch on parliamentlive.tv.
I have just come from a meeting of G7 leaders joined by Secretary-General Stoltenberg of NATO; with permission, I will update the House on our response to President Putin’s onslaught against a free and sovereign European nation.
Shortly after 4 o’clock this morning I spoke to President Zelensky of Ukraine, as the first missiles struck his beautiful and innocent country and its brave people, and I assured him of the unwavering support of the United Kingdom. I can tell the House that at this stage, Ukrainians are offering a fierce defence of their families and their country. I know every hon. Member will share my admiration for their resolve.
Earlier today, President Putin delivered another televised address and offered the absurd pretext that he sought the
“demilitarisation and denazification of Ukraine”.
In fact, he is hurling the might of his military machine against a free and peaceful neighbour, in breach of his own explicit pledge and every principle of civilised behaviour between states, spurning the best efforts of this country and our allies to avoid bloodshed. For that, Putin will stand condemned in the eyes of the world and of history. He will never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands.
Although the UK and our allies tried every avenue for diplomacy until the final hour, I am driven to conclude that Putin was always determined to attack his neighbour, no matter what we did. Now we see him for what he is: a blood-stained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.
I am proud that Britain did everything within our power to help Ukraine prepare for this onslaught, and we will do our utmost to offer more help as our brave friends defend their homeland. Our Embassy took the precaution on 18 February of relocating from Kyiv to the city of Lviv in western Ukraine, where our ambassador Melinda Simmons continues to work with the Ukrainian authorities and to support British nationals.
Now we have a clear mission: diplomatically, politically, economically and eventually militarily, this hideous and barbaric venture of Vladimir Putin must end in failure. At the G7 meeting this afternoon, we agreed to work in unity to maximise the economic price that Putin will pay for his aggression. This must include ending Europe’s collective dependence on Russian oil and gas that has served to empower Putin for too long, so I welcome again Chancellor Scholz’s excellent decision to halt the certification of Nord Stream 2.
Countries that together comprise about half the world economy are now engaged in maximising economic pressure on one that makes up a mere 2%. For our part, today the UK is announcing the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen. With new financial measures we are taking new powers to target Russian finance. In addition to the banks we have already sanctioned this week, today, in concert with the United States, we are imposing a full asset freeze on VTB.
More broadly, these powers will enable us totally to exclude Russian banks from the UK financial system, which is of course by far the largest in Europe, stopping them from accessing sterling and clearing payments through the UK. With around half of Russia’s trade currently in US dollars and sterling, I am pleased to tell the House that the United States is taking similar measures.
These powers will also enable us to ban Russian state and private companies from raising funds in the UK, banning dealing with their securities and making loans to them. We will limit the amount of money that Russian nationals will be able to deposit in their UK bank accounts, and sanctions will also be applied to Belarus for its role in the assault on Ukraine.
Overall, we will be imposing asset freezes on more than 100 new entities and individuals, on top of the hundreds that we have already announced. This includes all the major manufacturers that support Putin’s war machine. Furthermore, we are also banning Aeroflot from the UK.
Next, on top of these financial measures and in full concert with the United States and the EU, we will introduce new trade restrictions and stringent export controls similar to those that they in the US are implementing. We will bring forward new legislation to ban the export of all dual-use items to Russia, including a range of high-end and critical technological equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications and aerospace. Legislation to implement this will be laid early next week. These trade sanctions will constrain Russia’s military-industrial and technological capabilities for years to come.
We are bringing forward measures on unexplained wealth orders from the economic crime Bill, to be introduced before the House rises for Easter, and we will set out further detail before Easter on the range of policies to be included in the full Bill in the next Session, including on reforms to Companies House and a register of overseas property ownership. We will set up a new dedicated kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency to target sanctions evasion and corrupt Russian assets hidden in the UK, and that means oligarchs in London will have nowhere to hide.
I know that this House will have great interest in the potential of cutting Russia out from SWIFT, and I can confirm, as I have always said, that nothing is off the table. But for all these measures to be successful, it is vital that we have the unity of our partners and unity in the G7 and other fora.
Russian investors are already delivering their verdict on the wisdom of Putin’s actions. So far today, Russian stocks are down by as much as 45%, wiping $250 billion from their value in the biggest one-day decline on record. Sberbank, Russia’s biggest lender, is down by as much as 45% and Gazprom down by as much as 39%, while the rouble has plummeted to record lows against the dollar. We will continue on a remorseless mission to squeeze Russia from the global economy piece by piece, day by day, and week by week.
We will of course use Britain’s position in every international forum to condemn the onslaught against Ukraine, and we will counter the Kremlin’s blizzard of lies and disinformation by telling the truth about Putin’s war of choice and war of aggression. We will work with our allies on the urgent need to protect other European countries that are not members of NATO and that could become targets of Putin’s playbook of subversion and aggression. We will resist any creeping temptation to accept what Putin is doing today as a fait accompli. There can be no creeping normalisation, not now, not in the months to come, not in the years ahead.
We must strengthen NATO’s defences still further. So today I called for a meeting of NATO leaders that will take place tomorrow, and I will be convening the countries that contribute to the joint expeditionary force, which is led by the United Kingdom and comprises both NATO and non-NATO members.
Last Saturday, I warned that this invasion would have global economic consequences, and this morning the oil price has risen strongly. The Government will do everything possible to safeguard our own people from the repercussions for the cost of living, and of course we stand ready to protect our country from any threats, including in cyberspace.
Above all, the House will realise the hard and heavy truth that we now live in a continent where an expansionist power, deploying one of the world’s most formidable military machines, is trying to redraw the map of Europe in blood and conquer an independent state by force of arms. It is vital for the safety of every nation that Putin’s squalid venture should ultimately fail, and be seen to fail. However long it takes, that will be the steadfast and unflinching goal of the United Kingdom, I hope of every Member of this House and of every one of our great allies, certain that together we have the power and the will to defend the cause of peace and justice, as we have always done.
I say to the people of Russia, whose President has just authorised an onslaught against a fellow Slavic people, that I cannot believe this horror is being done in your name or that you really want the pariah status that these actions will bring to the Putin regime. To our Ukrainian friends in this moment of agony, I say that we are with you and we are on your side. Your right to choose your own destiny is a right that the United Kingdom and our allies will always defend, and in that spirit I join you in saying “Slava Ukraini”. I commend this statement to the House.
In this dark hour, our thoughts, our solidarity and our resolve are with the Ukrainian people. Invading troops march through their streets and missiles shell their cities. They have been cast into a war through no fault of their own, because Putin fears their freedom and because he knows that no people will choose to live under his bandit rule unless forced to do so at the barrel of a gun.
The consequences of Putin’s war of aggression will be horrendous and tragic for the people of Ukraine, but also for the Russian people, who have been plunged into chaos by a violent elite who have stolen their wealth, stolen their chance of democracy and stolen their future.
We must prepare ourselves for difficulties here. We will face economic pain as we free Europe from dependence on Russian gas and oil and clean our institutions of money stolen from the Russian people, but the British public have always been willing to make sacrifices to defend democracy on our continent, and we will again. The consequences of Putin’s actions will be felt throughout the world for years and, I fear, for decades to come.
Russia’s democratic neighbours and every other democracy that lives in the shadow of autocratic power are watching their worst nightmare unfold. All of us who believe in democracy over dictatorship, in the rule of law over the reign of terror and in freedom over the jackboot of tyranny must unite and take a stand. We must support the Ukrainian people in their fight and we must ensure that Putin fails.
Putin will eventually learn the same lesson that European tyrants learned in the last century: that the resolve of the world is harder than he imagines, that people’s desire for freedom burns brighter than he can ever extinguish, and that the light of liberty will prevail over his darkness. For that to happen, we must make a clean break with the failed approach to handling Putin, which after Georgia, after Crimea and after Donbas has fed his belief that the benefits of aggression outweigh the costs. We must finally show him that he is wrong. That means doing all that we can to help Ukraine to defend herself by providing weapons, equipment and financial assistance, as well as humanitarian support for the Ukrainian people. We must urgently reinforce and reassure our NATO allies in eastern Europe who now stand at the frontier of Putin’s aggression.
The hardest possible sanctions must be taken against the Putin regime. It must be isolated, its finances frozen and its ability to function crippled. That means excluding Russia from financial mechanisms such as SWIFT and banning trade in Russian sovereign debt. I welcome the set of sanctions outlined by the Prime Minister just now and pledge Opposition support for further measures.
There are changes that we must make here in the UK. For too long, our country has been a safe haven for the money that Putin and his fellow bandits stole from the Russian people. It must now change. Cracking open the shell companies in which stolen money is hidden will require legislation. The Prime Minister should bring it forward immediately, and Labour will support it, along with the other measures that he has just outlined. [Hon. Members: “Monday.”] Thank you, and we will support it.
This must be a turning point in history. We must look back and say that this terrible day was when Putin doomed himself—and his plan to reassert Russian force as a means of controlling eastern Europe—to defeat. We know how he operates so we know how to defeat him. He seeks division, so we must stand united. He hopes for inaction, so we must take a stand. He believes that we are too corrupted to do the right thing, so we must prove him wrong. I believe that we can and that in this dark hour, we can step towards the light.
I want to say how grateful I am to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for the terms in which he has just spoken and for the robust support that he is offering to the Government and to the western alliance at a very difficult time. The whole House can be turning to some of the issues that he raised.
Briefly, I think the whole House can be proud of the role that the UK has played in pioneering military support—logistical support—to the Ukrainians and the role that we have played in bringing together a ferocious package of sanctions that we will now implement. We will bring our allies together to protect NATO and to show that President Putin will get a tougher western alliance as a result of his actions, not a weaker western alliance.
I think that events will show that the Russian President has profoundly miscalculated. He believes that he is doing this for his own political advantage. I believe the exact opposite will prove to be the case, because of the resistance that will be mounted against what he is doing, not just in Ukraine but around the world. We will support those Ukrainians. We will support them economically, diplomatically, politically and, yes, militarily as well, and I know that in due time we will succeed.
I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement this afternoon. This House and this country are united in our defence of democracy and our support for the Ukrainian people. Vladimir Putin has initiated war in mainland Europe. The response must be unequivocal and absolutely clear, so will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Government are putting in place every possible economic sanction so that Russia feels absolutely the cold wind of isolation and the Russian people understand that Vladimir Putin has brought their state to a pariah state?
I thank my right hon. Friend. She is absolutely right about what the Government are setting out to do, and I do indeed believe that that will be the result for Putin and his cronies.
Let me thank the Prime Minister for an advance copy of the statement, and let me also welcome the very close contact he has kept with the Ukrainian President—importantly, overnight. I was grateful that I had the chance this afternoon to meet the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK and indeed Ukrainian MPs. Our thoughts and our support are very much with each and every one of them, as they are with all the people of Ukraine.
Although last night’s events have been prophesied and predicted for some time, the acts of Russian violence, aggression and tyranny are no less shocking. What we are witnessing is a full-scale invasion: it is an act of war. This is first and foremost an unprovoked attack on the peace and the innocence of Ukraine and of its people, but it is equally an attack on international law, an attack on our European democracy and an attack on the peace that our continent has so carefully built over the last 75 years.
President Putin, and President Putin alone, bears responsibility for these horrific acts, and it is he and his Kremlin cabal who must pay a massive price for their actions. It is important to say to the Russian people that we know that Putin is not acting in their name. He is a dictator, he is an imperialist, he is a tyrant and he is as much a threat to his own people as he is to all of us.
This is a moment for unity, and it is especially a moment for European unity. All of the economic sanctions that are now finally being implemented have one clear objective—the complete economic isolation of the Russian state. Can the Prime Minister confirm that this is the objective, and that he has agreed that with his international allies? That economic isolation must include sanctions on Putin and his network of oligarchs and agents, their expulsion from countries around the world, sanctions on his banks and their ability to borrow and function, and sanctions on his energy and mineral companies. As I said yesterday, it must finally mean clearing up the sewer of dirty Russian money that has been running through the City of London for years. I know all the complications involved, but can I ask the Prime Minister about the actions taken to suspend Russia from the SWIFT payment system—one of the steps that would hit the Putin regime the hardest?
As we rightly seek to punish Putin, we must redouble our support and solidarity for the Ukrainian people. Can the Prime Minister give further details on the humanitarian aid being deployed and the plans in place to offer refuge and sanctuary, where necessary, for those who might be displaced? What plans are in place to evacuate the families of UK citizens currently in Ukraine, given that commercial flights have now stopped?
Let us not fall for the Kremlin propaganda that it is prepared to soak up any sanctions. If we act now, and if the sanctions are targeted enough, swift enough and severe enough—if we impose nothing less than economic isolation—Putin and his cronies will suffer the consequences of their actions. So let us act together, stand together and, most of all, let us all stand with the people of Ukraine.
Again, may I thank the right hon. Gentleman for the wisdom and the statesmanship with which he has just spoken? On his points, we have put 1,000 troops on stand-by to help with the humanitarian exodus in the adjacent countries, and we have people in forward presence in the adjacent countries to help UK nationals come out. He is quite right that the way to make these sanctions work—as we discussed today in the G7, where there is a great deal of unity—is to do them together and at the same time, and that is what we are doing.
Order. The Prime Minister has some very important meetings, and I will be running the statement to 6.30 pm. For those colleagues who do not get in, we are keeping a list, as we did from the other day, to try to ensure that all Members have a voice on this very important matter.
I pay huge tribute to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and his Government for introducing what sound like the toughest sanctions we have seen in years. May I ask him to look wider than simply the Russian people, and at all those who are enabling Putin’s economy—those who sit on boards of the businesses that finance him, whether they are former Chancellors of Germany, or former Prime Ministers of France? Will he look here, close to home, at those who enable and propagate the propaganda that is used by Putin to undermine his own people and free people everywhere? Will he update the Treason Act 1351, so that we can identify those people and call them what they are: traitors? When the Prime Minister speaks to people around the world, will he speak with the truth that he can in Russian through the BBC Russian service, and start to broadcast in languages other than Russian into Russia, so that all Russian peoples can know that their oppression does not need to exist and they do not need to side with the tyrant?
I thank my hon. Friend very much. He is absolutely right to say that we have to look at those who abet the Putin regime. There are many, many of them, and that is why we are looking at all sorts of ways in which we can address threats to this state. We are, of course, ensuring that the messages from this House, which are so impressive in their unity, should be registered by the people of Russia, because we mean no ill towards them. They are, in many ways, as much the victims of this appalling regime as the people of Ukraine, and they need to know what is really going on.
Will the Prime Minister tell the House, if he can, what is going on with the Russian troops going through Chernobyl? That sent a chill through a lot of people’s thoughts when we heard about it.
I thank the hon. Lady. I hesitate to give the House a running commentary on what seems a very fluid and dangerous situation, but to the best of my knowledge she is right in what she says.
For the best part of 50 years, Britain gave sanctuary to the Governments in exile of the occupied Baltic states. If, as appears likely, Ukraine gets overwhelmed, will we offer to give sanctuary to a Government in exile, pending Ukraine’s future freedom?
I thank my right hon. Friend, and of course we will give all the support we can, logistical or otherwise, as Britain always has done, to Governments in exile. One of the points I made to President Zelensky this morning was that it might be necessary for him to find a safe place for him and his Cabinet to go.
With President Putin responsible for this catastrophic human tragedy, the Liberal Democrats join all sides to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and I thank the Prime Minister for his statement. Today must be a wake-up call. The west has been too complacent over Putin’s threat for too long. We have taken for granted our fragile alliances, so crucial for the defence of freedom, emboldening Putin and this outrageous act of aggression. The west cannot be complacent any longer. Will the Government reverse their proposed troop cuts to the British Army, and offer far greater military support to our NATO allies in eastern Europe? Putin must face the most punitive of sanctions. The world must isolate Russia like the rogue state it is, including the state-backed oil giant Rosneft, which is 20% owned by BP. Will the Prime Minister commit to banning UK investment in Russian oil and gas companies, with immediate effect?
On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about investment in Russian oil and gas, as I have said, we must move away from all our dependencies on Russian oil and gas, and that is the objective of the UK Government. We are lucky in this country in that only 3% of our gas comes from Russia. Other European countries are in a much more exposed position. On his point about supporting eastern Europeans, as he knows we have doubled the size of our commitment to Estonia. We have gone bigger in Poland, there are another 350 marines from 45 Commando, and we are in the skies above Romania. I do not believe there is another country in NATO that is currently doing more to strengthen NATO’s eastern defences.
My constituency has strong historical connections with Ukraine, so I welcome this robust approach. My constituency has also seen significant property investments by Russian investors. May I urge my right hon. Friend to accelerate the introduction of a register of beneficial ownership of property?
My hon. Friend is completely right that we need to unpeel the façade of these shell companies so that we can see who owns the property concerned.
It is because John Stuart Mill was right when he warned that
“Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing”
that the whole House will support the measures that the Prime Minister has announced. In his statement, he said that our mission is clear “diplomatically, politically, economically and, eventually, militarily.” What did he mean by militarily? Was he referring to providing further defensive weapons to enable Ukraine to defend itself?
Obviously I do not want to go into detail, because it is a sensitive and difficult business, but, yes, we have done so and continue to do so. I believe that I have the support of the House in intending to continue to do so.
I thank the Prime Minister for his words and, if I understood correctly, his early commitment to an economic crime Bill and a kleptocracy cell. In relation to that, will there be a foreign lobbying Bill? Will there be amendments to LIBOR and the Data Protection Acts to stop unscrupulous law firms from offering intimidation services to oligarchs and kleptocrats? Will the NCA be properly funded, as the Intelligence and Security Committee report suggested, so that it can take on the kleptocrats, the autocrats and the oligarchs in this country?
As I said in my statement, we are setting up a new combating kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency to target the very individuals mentioned by my hon. Friend.
Let us be under no illusion: we are on the brink of a potentially enormous humanitarian crisis that could see massive loss of life and widespread suffering for the Ukrainian people, all because of the warped desire complex of the Russian President. The attack on Ukraine is also likely to cause mass displacement of people, potentially triggering a significant refugee crisis in Europe. What is the Prime Minister doing to support the Ukrainian people who stay and those who choose to flee?
The hon. Member makes an important point, for which I am grateful, because the humanitarian impact threatens to be enormous. That is why I said what I did about supporting refugees as they come out of Ukraine. We must ensure that we do everything we can to stabilise the Ukrainian economy and support their Government. That is why on Tuesday I announced the $500 million extra package of development aid on top of the £100 million that we have already given. Other countries—our friends and allies—are working with us to do much more.
Does the Prime Minister agree that the international order as envisaged in the Atlantic charter of 1941 has been the most successful in the history of freedom and democracy and that, as one of the architects of that order, we have a special responsibility to defend it? While today’s sanctions are extremely welcome, this cannot just be about economic measures. We need a fundamental review of our military capability, including revisiting the integrated review, whose assumptions may now be out of date.
The integrated review begins with the assertion that the most important area for our national security is the Euro-Atlantic area, as I believe I said to the hon. Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) on Tuesday, and that remains fundamental. That is why we have continued with our investment in NATO, and we are the second biggest funder of NATO, as my right hon. Friend knows. He is right in what he says about what is at stake. This is about the whole idea of that wonderful thing that was so inspiring when some of us were young: a Europe whole and free. The fantastic revolution that happened in 1989 and 1990 when communism fell was a great moment for humanity. We must not allow it to slip through our fingers.
I would like to state, on behalf of the people of Norwich, our solidarity with the people of Ukraine. But warm words will not defend the Ukrainian people. I have been speaking to people who have been liaising with Ukrainian trade unionists, people who have been fighting privatisation and wage cuts, and they say one thing: that they will not run from their homes; they will defend their families. Those people need to be able to defend themselves. I support the Prime Minister’s assertion that we will be providing more defensive capabilities to that end, but let me ask one thing. Does the Prime Minister agree that we must have an end to this by a negotiated settlement, not by an escalation of military means?
I think the whole House and everybody in the world would want President Putin to have chosen the path of negotiation. He had that moment. That is why, if the hon. Gentleman remembers, we had that discussion in the House on Tuesday about that perilous moment. He had that opportunity. I am afraid he has missed it. He has chosen the path of overwhelming violence and destruction. I am afraid that puts us on a very, very different course and we have to accept that reality.
Everybody will wholeheartedly support the Prime Minister’s sanctions against, hopefully, all 140 Russian oligarchs who support Putin and against all the major banks. The Prime Minister described Russia as a pariah state. He is right, because it has broken international criminal law on a major scale. Can we implement our view of the pariah state by ensuring that everybody involved in that decision, if they leave Russia to go abroad, faces international criminal sanctions wherever they go?
I thank my right hon. Friend and that is exactly what we can now do thanks to the measures this House has passed.
This morning we woke to the worst possible news. I make no apology in hoping for a diplomatic solution. However, my party and I condemn the escalating Russian aggression. This is a fluid and developing situation, but we are now in uncharted territory.
I can update the House. While there have been calls in this place for Alex Salmond to cease broadcasting on Russia Today, negotiations have obviously been happening in the background, and I can confirm that he has suspended broadcasting on Russia Today.
We must prepare for the worst. What strategy is the Prime Minister bringing forward to increase North sea oil and gas capacity, so that we can support ourselves and EU member states, and protect our people from a further increase in the cost of living?
I must say I disagree profoundly with what the hon. Gentleman has to say about negotiating now. I do not think that that option is open to us. We must do our best to support and protect the people of Ukraine, working with our international friends and allies to constrict what Vladimir Putin can do.
On the hon. Gentleman’s point about Russia Today, I simply observe that the former leader of the Scottish National party—[Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman’s leader; I am so sorry. I understand the pleas he entered in defence and mitigation. They do not seem to cut much ice with me.
I strongly welcome the further set of sanctions announced by the Prime Minister this evening. We look forward to further steps being taken in the days ahead and to not being held back by perhaps some of the slower moving members of the alliance in Europe. Does he agree that if sanctions are really to bite on Putin and his gangster Government, it will inevitably mean cost and inconvenience to UK economic interests? However, that cost and inconvenience will be nothing compared with what the people of Ukraine are going through, and we stand with them this evening.
Yes, I am afraid my right hon. Friend is right. It will mean cost, it will mean inconvenience, it will mean difficulty for us in the UK, but that will be a price worth paying for defeating the objectives of Vladimir Putin and showing that aggression does not pay.
To follow up on the question from the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Bob Seely) about the combating kleptocracy cell in the National Crime Agency, may I seek from the Prime Minister a view on whether additional powers and additional resources will be required for the NCA to do its work?
I thank the right hon. Lady very much for her question. Of course, the NCA has plenty of existing statute, but among its additional powers will be the ability to peel back the façade of ownership, which will be extremely valuable.
While this terrible, appalling incident is, of course, directly the cause of Russia, it is appropriate that we also recognise that over the last 14 years, the UK, the EU and the US collectively have not been attentive to Russia in the way that we should have been. Can my right hon. Friend now say that, whatever happened in the past, moving forward we are not going to let Russia fall between our fingers again?
The lesson of 2014 is that the whole of the west failed to respond in the way that we should have done. I am afraid that it was quite wrong that, when a sovereign country was invaded and part of that country was occupied, we tried to manage the situation with various diplomatic processes, which, in the end, produced absolutely nothing except, finally, this catastrophic invasion today. We have learned a bitter lesson about how to deal with Vladimir Putin.
I agree with the Prime Minister that it seems like the curtain has now come down on the era that began in 1989. We have lived in an era of change since then, and this now feels like a change of era. In this new era, the permissive environment that we created for the Kremlin’s quartermasters to live, invest and party in London, sometimes with the Prime Minister himself, must now come to an end—[Interruption.] So let me ask the Prime Minister this: will he undertake to ensure that every visa issued to a Russian dual national is now reviewed? Where proximity to President Putin is proven, that citizenship should be stripped away.
Yes, we are doing that, although I think it is worth the House remembering the point that I made the other day: not every Russian is a bad person.
I welcome the package of sanctions that the Prime Minister has set out. Although I understand why it has not been possible to suspend Russia from the SWIFT payment system at this stage, I ask him: what work are we doing with our European allies to offer them reassurance, so that we can eventually get to a position where Russia can be suspended, because that is by far and away the biggest thing that will isolate the Russian economy?
My hon. Friend is spot on—actually, the biggest thing would be if everybody stopped taking Russian hydrocarbons, but SWIFT is extremely important. It is a Belgian company, as I am sure the House knows. We are raising the issue and trying to make progress with our friends but, for obvious reasons, it has to be done in unison.
This morning, I spoke to friends in Kyiv who were leaving the country with their family and their children. We have all seen the scenes from the capital of cars trying to get out. I send my deepest thanks to the embassy team there, who are doing all they can to support people.
May I ask the Prime Minister about two areas of support for Ukraine: economic support and continuing support for defensive capability? Will both those areas of support intensify? I see the Foreign Secretary telling me so, but can the Prime Minister assure the House that the Government will continue the deepest possible conversations with the Government in Ukraine to ensure that, no matter the assault that comes to them from Vladimir Putin, we will be supporting them in a deeply meaningful sense?
On the hon. Gentleman’s last point, the answer is certainly yes. For instance, the other day I was looking at two British minesweepers that are being refitted in Rosyth, as I am sure he knows, and are due to go to Ukraine. The question will be access; that is what it all depends on.
It is crystal clear from this act of naked aggression that Putin does not seek Finlandisation on his borders; he seeks, at best, to recreate a Belarus in the south or, at worst, to dismember the sovereign state of Ukraine. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that means that we need to build on the outcome of our integrated defence review and think differently from how we thought in the past about eastern Europe? At home, with respect to his announcement about bringing forward economic crime measures, it seems that there is consensus in this House that could allow us to introduce emergency legislation to bring in those important measures, to really hit those people hard and hit them now.
That is clearly the will of the House and it is the will of the Government, which is why we will be bringing forward those important measures on Monday.
My thoughts are with the Ukrainian people at this time. While I welcome the sanctions that the Prime Minister has announced today, can he update the House on whether he plans to sanction the major state-owned Russian banks such as Sberbank and Gazprombank and the non-state Alfa bank?
The Ukrainian prisoner of war chapel at Lockerbie in my constituency is a focal point for the Ukrainian diaspora in Scotland; prayers are being said there for their fellow countrymen. Ukrainians in the UK, who are grateful for the military support that has already been forthcoming, have identified an immediate need for medical battlefield supplies, for warm clothing for troops and for camouflage gear. Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that they will be forthcoming?
My right hon. Friend raises a very important issue. We are working on exactly those supplies right now.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement and very much welcome the sanctions that he has announced today, but can he give an assurance that the sanctions targeting individuals will also target relatives and connected parties? The right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland) mentioned the economic crime Bill; there is also the review of the Official Secrets Act and a foreign registration Act. Why can we not bring them forward and do them now? They would get huge support and we have been waiting for some of them for nearly two years.
I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that we will certainly be making sure that we are able to sanction—and that we do sanction—relatives and other interested parties. There will be a rolling programme of intensifying sanctions.
Having been one of the officials who accompanied the then Defence Secretary to both Moscow and Kyiv in 1993, I am in no doubt that the signatures of the United States and the United Kingdom on the Budapest memorandum gave Ukraine the confidence to give up its nuclear deterrent. Will my right hon. Friend support the United States to whatever extent it is prepared to go, and stand alongside the United States in giving whatever military support it is prepared to give to Ukraine?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to remind the House of the 1994 Budapest memorandum, which had exactly that effect and created exactly that obligation on us as one of the signatories.
The Prime Minister will be aware that Opposition Members are very keen on these sanctions, but does he share my worry that the record of driving out dictators and demagogues with such sanctions is not always that successful? Does he share my concern, from reading what Putin has been saying in the past few hours, that he is a man who might not stop at Ukraine, but might go into a NATO country? Are we playing that scenario? Many of us think that it might be the next step.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to raise that appalling possibility, and it is vital that we reaffirm, again, that under article 5 of the North Atlantic treaty, we stand four-square behind every one of our NATO allies and will come to their defence.
With Ukrainian men and women dying to fight against the Russians for their freedom today, those who are calling for negotiation at this point can only please that rambling wreck of a neo-Nazi sitting in the Kremlin, and they should be shunned.
Today the ambassador from Ukraine asked desperately whether NATO would look at a no-fly zone. I know it is a difficult choice, but could my right hon. Friend step to the Dispatch Box and make it clear that in this particular case, he rules nothing out?
I know that my right hon. Friend is a great military expert, and I understand the attractions of the no-fly zone. I remember the no-fly zone that was created in 1991, as I recall, in northern Iraq. However, the situation here is very different. We would face the risk of having to shoot down Russian planes, and that is something that I think the House would want to contemplate with caution.
I hope the Prime Minister can reassure me that locking out Russian state money will include our overseas territories and dependencies. I note that protests are taking place in a number of cities across Russia, and that celebrities in Russia have been speaking out. I do hope that we will be offering all the support we can to those people who are likely to be shunned by the fascist imperialist Putin regime.
Yes, and let me also say that one of the reasons I want to keep our fantastic British embassy staff in Moscow, even though the temptation is there simply to sunder diplomatic relations with Putin, is that I want them there to support groups such as the ones that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned.
I have given evidence at four war crimes trials. It was with genocide and crimes against humanity that those people had been charged. May I ask my right hon. Friend and the House to agree with me that any Russian who kills a Ukrainian must remember that one day they may well be brought to court for crimes against humanity or genocide?
Yes, and not just any Russian combatant, but anyone who sends a Russian into battle to kill innocent Ukrainians.
President Zelensky has called for the toughest possible sanctions. If they are to be the toughest possible sanctions, that must mean “immediate”. In his statement, the Prime Minister referred to economic measures “in the next Session”, including measures relating to Companies House and the register of overseas property ownership, but in his answer to the right hon. and learned Member for South Swindon (Sir Robert Buckland), he said something about bringing this forward on Monday. Which is it to be, and if it is Monday, will it have the same effect as is required for that immediate action?
We will be bringing it forward on Monday, and I am grateful for the support of the Opposition. We want immediately to start cracking down on these individuals.
The whole House will welcome the enhanced package of sanctions that the Prime Minister has announced today, but may I raise the question of football, much beloved of Russian hearts, and in particular issues of ownership, property and shareholdings, and the future participation of Russian clubs in international matches?
My right hon. Friend is completely right. The Russians attach a great deal of sentimental importance to football, and they hope to hold the UEFA championship final in St Petersburg. I cannot for the life of me see how that can currently go ahead.
Putin’s war on Ukraine is brutal, illegal and a calculated attack on peace and stability in Europe. Plaid Cymru fully supports the actions and sanctions announced today. Putin and his cronies with their personal fortunes must pay for their actions. On a visit to Ukraine, Plaid Cymru leaders spoke to Ukrainian soldiers, Government officials and organisations, admiring the Ukrainian people for their strength and resilience, but those people are now in harm’s way. With Poland organising medical assistance and Slovakia opening up its borders to refugees, will this Government mobilise and resource a global effort to support and aid people fleeing this horrific conflict?
I thank the hon. Lady very much for her support and her resolve. I want to assure her that we are of course working with our international friends to prepare for a humanitarian crisis.
Earlier this afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak on a Zoom call to a number of Ukrainian MPs, who were all calling for additional support. One of their key concerns was that their communications networks might be shut down. Can I urge the Prime Minister to ensure that we are doing all we can to provide equipment such as satellite phones to ensure that they can still communicate, not just internally but with us here in the UK?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. There is a threat to communications already. We are observing it in the contacts we are having with people in Ukraine. Satellite phones are certainly an option and we will be looking at that.
We have rightly heard a lot about tougher trade sanctions today, but nothing about ridding our democracy of Russian state influence. Will the Prime Minister commit to investigating all political donations received from people with links to Putin, and will his Government finally bring forward measures to clean up the corrupt Russian money that for far too long has been laundered in the UK?
All political donations are properly registered and monitored. I can tell the hon. Lady that we are putting forward progressively over the last few days and weeks and today the biggest ever package to crack down on dirty Russian money, not just from Russia but from anywhere.
I welcome the sanctions today. My right hon. Friend has been crystal clear that all of Europe needs to end its dependence on Russian oil and gas. Can he tell us a little bit more about how he intends to see that that comes to pass?
The key thing is first to get people to recognise the scale of their dependency, as in any addiction, and that is what we are doing. The UK Government have been making that point to our friends the whole time, because it has got worse since 2014. What we are also doing is helping countries such as the Baltic states to go further and faster with renewable technology.
I think everyone knows that Ukraine is a major producer of grain. Unfortunately, because of these awful events, there are likely to be consequences for many countries, including our own. Can I ask the Prime Minister to look again at our food security proposals and ensure that we are secure and not reliant on others as much as we have been in the past?
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Food security is an important consideration. One of the many things that our fantastic Ukrainian community has done in the last few years is to help us in that very sector.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that western Europe’s ongoing reliance on Russian oil and gas has been a major factor in emboldening President Putin in the mistaken belief that he can invade his peaceful neighbour with relative impunity? In the UK, should we not refocus our energy policy on maximising the use of our own natural resources and look again at fracking while we invest in low carbon alternatives?
My hon. Friend is totally right when he talks about the excessive dependence on hydrocarbons. We are moving away from it in this country. I think he and I might agree that there is merit, during a transitional phase, in continuing with the use of hydrocarbons in this country rather than pointlessly importing them from abroad.
Putin’s imperial bloodlust will not stop at Ukraine. We are rightly focused on sanctions, military and humanitarian support and our commitment to Ukrainian freedom, but the Prime Minister knows that there has been a phenomenal increase in Russian submarine activity over the last 20 years. Our undersea cables carry more than 95% of western military, diplomatic, commercial, financial and personal communications, and the consequences of these cables being weaponised is terrifying. Can he assure me that countering this threat is part of our ongoing dialogue with allies?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right that there is a continual struggle beneath the surface of the sea between submarines that are out to sever cables and those of us who are trying to make sure those links are maintained.
My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) asked a question about war crimes, and I suspect those crimes are already being committed by Russian soldiers against their Slavic brothers and sisters. Will the Prime Minister join NATO heads of state in setting out, at an early stage, how war crimes will be prosecuted so that all Russian soldiers, field officers, generals and, of course, politicians are brutally aware of where they will end up in a few years’ time?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and it is why we are working on setting up a particular international war crimes tribunal for those involved in war crimes in the Ukraine theatre.
As well as being incredibly ruthless, President Putin is incredibly rich, with one assessment saying that his personal wealth is up to $200 billion. Will the Prime Minister ensure that President Putin himself pays a heavy price by targeting his own cash and assets?
Yes, absolutely, and not just him but, as the House has heard over the last few days, as many of his immediate cronies and family as we can hit.
I thank the Prime Minister for all he has done. Just before the statement, I spoke to some of the Ukrainian protesters outside. One of them was holding back tears as she spoke about her mother being in a cellar as her house is surrounded by Russian tanks. Any hon. Member who asks for a negotiated settlement needs to speak to the protesters, because all they want is to live their lives as free and peaceful people. Will the Prime Minister confirm to the people of Ukraine that he will do everything he can to end the tyranny of Putin and to make sure they live as a peaceful, free people?
Yes, I certainly can confirm that. I believe that, through this invasion, President Putin has done more than anybody else to bring his regime to an end. In the end, he will pay a huge price for what he has done, and I know this House will want to make it so.
I welcome and support the measures outlined by the Prime Minister today. Putin is a gangster and a despot who has been trying to undermine and subvert democracy across the world for years. One of the tools he uses is donations to political parties, including in this country. Will the Prime Minister commit today to ridding our democracy of Russian money?
Yes, of course.
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland triggered article 4 of the north Atlantic treaty today, and I heard that we will be joining those discussions. Can my right hon. Friend assure our NATO allies in eastern Europe, particularly the Baltic states that have significant Russian populations, that we stand firmly with them?
My hon. Friend is completely right. It is why one of the first things we did was to strengthen our presence in Estonia in the way I described, and why our Canadian friends are strengthening their presence in Latvia. We will make sure that we give the Baltic states, which seceded from the Soviet Union to become free and independent in that amazing moment, all the security they deserve.
There is overwhelming evidence that Russian state actors have been involved in trying to disrupt and destabilise western democracies by using social media platforms such as Facebook. What are the Government doing to ensure such platforms are not used in these events?
As I said in an answer a couple of days ago, we have no evidence of disruption of UK elections or electoral events as a result of Russian activity, but the online harms Bill is there to provide such protections.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement, and indeed thank the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition for his supportive and moving words. But I also reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr Djanogly). Why has it come to this pass? How has the west in general and the UK in particular been so asleep at the switch for such a long time? I commend the defence and security review, but is it not now time to ask what the permanent and impartial machinery of our government does in failing to provide Ministers with consistent advice about the strategic threats that our country faces?
There are all sorts of reasons for the failure of the west to take sufficient account of the threat of Vladimir Putin since 2014, but the two biggest are oil and gas.
With cyber-attacks and falsehoods, Russia is peddling lies today. Observers on the ground are crucial to relaying the truth. In recent weeks, the UK has withdrawn its team from the OSCE special monitoring mission because staff safety is key, but can the Prime Minister look again to support international efforts such as that to get to the facts and counter Russian disinformation?
I thank the monitoring mission teams. They are wonderful. I have met them and they do a fantastic job. I am sorry that they have had to be withdrawn, for the duty of care reasons that the hon. Gentleman rightly alludes to. We will keep that under constant review.
The 1994 Budapest memorandum saw Ukraine give up its nuclear weapons in return for a security guarantee signed by not only Britain and the United States, but Russia. Does my right hon. Friend believe that Ukraine would have been invaded had it retained its nuclear weapons? What does that say about the value of a Russian signature on any international agreement?
It is clear that President Putin sets no stall by international law whatever and that is just one of the legal obligations that he has torn up.
We awoke this morning to images of innocent families cowering in tube stations. We know the Putin regime’s propensity for oppression and tyranny, particularly when it comes to minorities. Will the Prime Minister ensure that humanitarian aid is delivered in concert with not just other international partners, but third sector organisations?
Yes, of course. The third sector plays an invaluable role.
I welcome the Prime Minister’s statement and his specifically ruling out the threat of creeping normalisation. This House should be in no doubt that Putin is well prepared. He has hundreds of billions of foreign currency reserves and a military that has been tested. Will the Prime Minister do everything he can to convert the current intent into frameworks that cement our intent over time, because Putin is betting on the fact that it will not be?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right because the plan that the G7 has agreed on, and our friends and partners have agreed on, is that Putin must fail—Putin must not succeed in this venture. We have to put in place all the steps we need to take, diplomatically, economically and, yes, militarily, in order to ensure that that is the case and that is what we are doing.
The Prime Minister is right to have set out the most stringent possible set of sanctions against the Government of Russia. Can he outline for the House what the implications will be for co-operation at the international space station?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that. We will have to see what further downstream effects there are on collaboration of all kinds. Hitherto, I have been broadly in favour of continuing artistic and scientific collaboration, but in the current circumstances it is hard to see how even those can continue as normal.
The mix of practice and principle is the test of democratic politics, exemplified at its best when this House comes together in common cause. The test of leadership is the mix of vision and will, and the Prime Minister is to be commended for his wilful, clear-sighted determination. Will he now reassure the House that he is in close touch with those countries close to Ukraine, where nerves will be frayed? Will he send them the urgent message that this House and this nation will always stand together and behind free nations?
As so often, my right hon. Friend is precisely right. That is why, together with my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Defence and the Foreign Secretary, we have been visiting Poland, Romania, the Balts—all those who are now feeling such deep unease at what is happening.
As we speak, the Sovcomflot tanker NS Challenger is berthed at Sullom Voe in Shetland and taking on a load of crude oil for export. As the Prime Minister may know, Sovcomflot is a company owned and operated by the Russian Government. My constituents are asking me why they should be loading oil on to a Russian tanker while Russian troops are marching into Ukraine. I cannot think of any good answer to give them. Will the Prime Minister tell me whether anything that he has announced today will ensure that that will not happen again?
I will of course immediately investigate what is happening with the Sovcomflot oil tanker. The result of the measures that the House passed the other day is that we can now target any entity—any company—that has any relation with the Russian state. We have that power.
Tyrants and megalomaniacs invade countries because they think they can get away with it. The way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them. I am sure the Prime Minister will acknowledge that the way the west responds to this aggression will have repercussions not just for Russia and Ukraine but for other bullies such as China. Will he be mindful of the need to show support to Russia’s smaller southerly neighbours, especially Georgia and Armenia, which feel particularly vulnerable at this time?
Yes, my hon. Friend is right, because the read-across—the knock-on—is obvious for Georgia and Armenia. What Putin proposes to create is a new sphere of influence—a new Yalta—in which those countries come behind his new iron curtain.
As a Member of this House with Ukrainian heritage, this issue particularly troubles me. I thank the Prime Minister for the tone of his statement and for not only the resolute and swift action he proposes to tackle Russia but the resolute and swift support that he is offering to the people of Ukraine. During his statement, the Prime Minister highlighted the cost of living and the rise in fuel prices. Could he touch on what further action the Government will take to address those issues?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right, because people throughout the country will be thinking about the effect on us all of the increase in the price of oil and gas as a result of a war in Ukraine. We will continue to do everything we can to help people to abate the cost and to support people through councils and all the funds we are providing, such as for the reduction in council tax, but the best thing we can do is to ensure people are in good, well-paying jobs, and in that we are certainly succeeding. In the medium and long term, we have to have more self-reliance in this country on our own energy supplies. That is what this Government are also committed to building.
One of the most important economic sanctions we can take against Russia is to freeze its sovereign debt. Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Bill proposed on Monday on economic crime will include powers to do so?
We are taking the most powerful measures against Russia and the Russian economy that have ever been taken—probably the most powerful ever taken by any country—and Russia will no longer be able to raise any sovereign debt on UK markets.
What support will we be providing to Ukrainian citizens who are settled in the UK and wish to reunite with family members who still reside in Ukraine? Many have watched their cities rapidly get caught up in this conflict and are keen to know what more we can do to support them to reunite with their families.
We will make sure that we support Ukrainian nationals who need to come to this country to meet their relatives—of course we will do that.
I am proud that the Prime Minister and this country are leading the international support for our friends in Ukraine. Domestically, will the Prime Minister be providing more support for our NHS, other public sector organisations and businesses that will now be the subject of Russian cyber-attacks?
My hon. Friend is right to point to that risk. It is foresighted of him. We are investing massively in cyber-protection—I think we are putting in another £2.6 billion. In the past few years, we have tackled more than 3,000 cyber-attacks It is a risk, but a risk, I am afraid, that we must run in the cause of freedom.
I offer my wholehearted support for much tougher sanctions against President Putin and his dreadful regime.
As mentioned earlier, there are many historic Ukrainian communities in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and indeed I would like to commend the work of the Reading Ukrainian Centre. What additional support can the Government give to these very valuable community groups and centres around the country that offer such support to families, friends and relatives both in the UK and in Ukraine?
Perhaps the most important thing that we can do for the Ukrainian community in this country is thank them and recognise everything that they have done for us in the past decades. They have been an amazing addition to the UK, to the UK economy and to our cultural and artistic life.
The House is united in its condemnation, but I suggest to the Prime Minister that the lessons to be addressed from this affair started with Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008, and not in 2014. Many of us across the House have been warning about Russia and yet the response has been weak. Does the Prime Minister accept that, as we enter the battle for democracy globally, we must understand that the sooner that we square up to the playground bully the better and that must we adequately support our hard and soft power to do that?
Yes, my hon. Friend is quite right. I know that, by soft power, he is thinking also of the British Council, which can have such a wonderful beneficial effect across Russia. Indeed, I have seen its work across Russia. He is right about standing up to the playground bully. We should have done it ages ago. I think the scales have fallen from the eyes of many of our friends and partners.
In an earlier response, the Prime Minister suggested that this country would welcome people who were reuniting with family here. I have a constituent who is Ukrainian but a British citizen. She is trying to bring her mother from Ukraine, but has been turned down because she is over 18. Her mother is on her own and has no family, so naturally she is frightened. Will we see a change in the Home Office to enable British citizens who are Ukrainian to bring their vulnerable family here?
I thank the hon. Lady very much. I think I read out a helpline number in the House on Tuesday. I do not have it with me. There is a number both in Lviv and in this country, but if she could do me the favour of sending me the details, I will take them up.
I commend my right hon. Friend and his Ministers for the firm stance they are taking. None of us knows what Mr Putin’s longer-term aims are. If Ukraine falls, and I fear that it might, his covetous eye might land on the Baltic states and other vulnerable countries. Can my right hon. Friend reassure NATO members that if one Russian boot lands on NATO soil, military force will be met by military force?
Yes, and what is so encouraging is that the whole House understands the vital importance of that article 5 guarantee that we make to every one of the 30 members of NATO.
The Prime Minister quite rightly pitches this as a battle between the party of war and those who support international law. There is only one lawful Government in Ukraine—the Government of President Zelensky. If they are forced to move or possibly forced into exile in the short run or the longer run, will the Prime Minister state clearly that we will ensure they can be a functional and effective Government, wherever they operate from?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. That is why in our discussions with President Zelensky we are seeing what we can do to give them the practical support they need to continue.
The City of London is a global asset whose enduring success rests not on dirty money, but on a commitment to excellence and on adherence to the rule of law. It is right that we now use that as a way to show global leadership. Can I encourage my right hon. Friend to sanction all the remaining Russian banks, to sanction the executives associated with them—I notice that many are resigning today—to publish a further list of individuals, resident in this country or otherwise, to be sanctioned and to redouble his excellent efforts to suspend Russia from SWIFT, as the single most effective immediate step the west could take to put pressure on Vladimir Putin?
I thank my right hon. Friend particularly for his important testimonial to the City of London, whose work should not be sullied by association with ill-gotten Russian money. The programme he sets out for sanctions is exactly the right one and the one that the Government are following.
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”
Will the Prime Minister reiterate that our quarrel is not with the Russian people, but with their leader Vladimir Putin, who has committed a very grave error?
The hon. Gentleman is so right, and I know that is what the House thinks. We admire the Russian people. Our links to the Russian people go back to the time when we stood shoulder to shoulder with them to fight fascism. Russia’s contribution to culture, to art, to literature and to music is unparalleled. It is an extraordinary country, and nothing we do or say should obscure that.
Winston Churchill created the Council of Europe as a bastion against fascism and communism. Since the fall of communism, Russia has set great importance on its membership, as a fig leaf of respectability. Every time our Conservative group has tried to get it expelled, we have been foiled by Russian gold. Will the Prime Minister now instruct his ambassador on the Council of Europe to move for the immediate expulsion of Russia from the Council, so that there is no place for gangsters in the halls of civilised nations?
Eloquently put, and my right hon. Friend is dead right. I think my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (John Howell), who is on the Council of Europe, made that point the other day, and I certainly agree with it.
So many Russians see this attack on Ukraine as they would see an attack of their father on their mother, because there are such intimate family relationships between the two groups. Today, thousands of Russians are protesting in cities—against their domestic law—about this awful war. Will the Prime Minister provide them with his support? Will he amplify that support to help reduce any support there is for this ridiculous war? Will he also provide sanctuary and safe haven for refugees, including troops, outside Ukraine so that they can re-engage and we can win this war at home and abroad?
The hon. Gentleman makes a series of extremely important observations. Yes, it is vital that we get the message across to the whole of Russia about what is really going on. They are being lied to day after day, and his point about supporting troops who need temporary exile, as it were, is a good one.
I thank the Prime Minister for yet again coming to the House to keep us informed and for his leadership in this crisis. He was right to provide military aid to Ukraine. The Ukrainian ambassador asked for our support on a no-fly zone today. In his answer earlier, I think the Prime Minister was keeping that option open—is that correct?
I think it is pretty clear to the House that we are trying to keep all our options open on this front. Some of them, frankly, may be more practicable that others. We must also have a dose of realism about what we can do on the military front, but we will keep all things under review.
Many of the residents in my constituency come from a number of the countries on the eastern flank and still have relatives living there. Obviously, like us, they will be deeply concerned about the humanitarian impact of the crisis. So what steps are the Government taking to prepare for the humanitarian issue? Will the 1,000 troops on standby to help with humanitarian assistance now be deployed?
The hon. Lady raises a very important point. What we are seeing now, tragically, as I am sure the House knows, is people moving west out of Kyiv, with columns of traffic, and people already moving into south-eastern Poland. There is going to be an influx. As I said to the Prime Minister of Poland as well, we are there to help.
I thank the Prime Minister for his statement today and for his strong package of sanctions. I want to ask him about preventing sexual violence in conflict. In November last year, we issued a strong statement that said that the use of sexual violence as a weapon in conflict is a red line akin to the use of chemical weapons. Will he reaffirm that commitment today, and will he send a strong message to Russia that the international community will not tolerate the use of sexual violence in conflict?
Yes; I thank my hon. Friend for all the work she has done on that issue. It is something that the UK Government have campaigned on for a long time and have indeed raised, very rightly, in international consciousness. I think it should be treated as a war crime like any other, and people who perpetrate sexual violence in conflict can expect to be tried in those tribunals.
In seeking to redraw the boundaries of Europe through bloodshed, Putin has attacked not only Ukraine but all of us, and we stand with Ukraine in standing for the rule of law. I welcome the sanctions that the Prime Minister has announced, but I was confused by his response on Russian disinformation, which he seemed to imply would be addressed by the online safety Bill. That is many, many months away. Russian disinformation is organised; their bots are state-sponsored. What steps will he take to address that?
The hon. Lady raises a good point. What we are doing is a massive, positive strat comms campaign in Russian and in Ukrainian to make sure that people get the truth and hear the truth.
As we have noticed this afternoon, virtually everyone in this House has supported the efforts towards resistance over the past few months and in these days. I imagine the House will also support the very different sort of warfare under occupation over the coming months and possibly years. But the House will also have noticed the marvellous way the Prime Minister has spoken directly to the Russian people today. I hope that he will bear in mind that at the moment public opinion in Russia is rather different, and that does underline the importance of accurate information.
My hon. Friend is quite right. He is a distinguished former soldier and he knows that truth is the first casualty. We have to make sure that we are telling people exactly what is going on. To the best of my knowledge, at the moment the Ukrainians are resisting much more strongly than some people had thought that they would. Who knows how long they can keep going? Let us hope that they can and let us encourage them to do so, but let us get the message out as well. That is our job.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right: we equivocated shamefully after Crimea; we were spineless. We must not be spineless now, because what will inevitably happen is that either the Baltic states, one of the members of NATO, or perhaps Sweden or Finland will feel the wrath of Putin next, and that will mean British action. Do we not need to try to set in train now a process whereby Putin himself ends up in the dock in a court? Norman Birkett, who was the alternate British judge at Nuremberg, said at Nuremberg that to
“initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Putin must be brought to a court of law and end his days in prison, must he not?
One of the most fascinating things about what Putin is doing is how close an analogy there is between his actions and those of Slobodan Milošević. We have exactly the same nonsense being peddled about the mystical union between Kyiv and Moscow as we did about Kosovo and Belgrade, and exactly the same aggression, and remember that Slobodan Milošević died on trial.
I welcome the package of sanctions set out by the Prime Minister and the fact that he has confirmed that more will come. If they are to be successful in punishing President Putin for what he has done to date and to deter him from going further and attacking our NATO partners, they must be sustained, and if they are to be sustained, we must be honest with the British people that there will be a cost for them and that we will have to pay an economic cost, but that it is a cost we must pay, and it pales into insignificance compared with the cost to the people of Ukraine.
Yes, and not only is that true, but the opportunity and the reward for success and being strong are huge, because if this should end with the rejection of aggression and the rejection of the Putin regime’s view of the world, that will be a massive, massive benefit, including economically, to the whole world.
Up until May 2021, Valentyna Yakovleva was my constituent. She resided in Scotland for 20 years with her daughter and her family, but due to an initial error in application, she eventually exhausted appeals and was deported with two covid jags last year. Now that 71-year-old is sheltering in a subway. In response to the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Dr Whitford), who is no longer in her place, I reiterate: does the Prime Minister agree that as we face a likely refugee crisis, the UK must be doing all it can to extract individuals who have immediate family relatives in the UK? I urge for support for this case.
I thank the hon. Lady very much for drawing the case to my attention. If she sends me the details, I would be happy to ensure it is properly taken up by the Home Office.
I just say for those who did not get in that we have a list for next time, because this will definitely not be the end on this topic.