The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Monday 31 October.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on the situation in Ukraine.
This morning, Russian missiles again struck Kyiv and other cities, destroying critical national infrastructure and depriving Ukrainians of water and electricity. Earlier today I spoke to our ambassador in Kyiv, and I heard again of the extraordinary resilience of Ukraine’s people in the face of Russian aggression.
At the weekend, Russia suspended its participation in the Black Sea grain initiative, which has allowed the exportation of 100,000 tonnes of food every day, including to some of the least developed countries in the world. Putin is exacting vengeance for his military failures on the civilians of Ukraine by cutting off their power and water supply, and on the poorest people in the world by threatening their food supplies. Over 60% of the wheat exported under the Black Sea grain initiative has gone to low- and middle-income countries, including Ethiopia, Yemen and Afghanistan. It would be unconscionable for those lands to be made to suffer because of Putin’s setbacks on the battlefield in Ukraine. I urge Russia to stop impeding this vital initiative, which is helping to feed the hungry across the world, and to agree to its extension.
Meanwhile, Russia’s suicide drones and cruise missiles are killing Ukrainian civilians, obliterating their homes and even destroying a children’s playground. A third of the country’s power stations were put out of operation in a single week. None of this achieves any military purpose. Putin’s only aim is to spread terror and to deprive Ukrainian families of shelter, light and heat as harsh winter approaches. I am sure the House will join me in condemning his breaches of international humanitarian law.
I am also sure that every right honourable and honourable Member will share my conviction that Putin will never break the spirit of the Ukrainian people, and my incredulity at the glaring contradictions in his thinking. He claims that Ukraine is part of Russia and that Ukrainians are Russians, but at the same time he calls them Nazis who must be bombed without mercy.
When Putin launched his invasion, he convinced himself that Russian forces would be welcomed into Kyiv and that Ukrainians would support him or be too craven to stand in his way. He could not have been more wrong. The last eight months have shown the scale of his miscalculation and the barbarity of his onslaught, including the mass rape committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The UK’s campaign to prevent sexual violence in conflict is more urgent now than ever and I will host a conference on that vital subject next month. The Kremlin is now resorting to peddling false claims and churning out invented stories that say more about the fractures within the Russian Government than they do about us.
It is reprehensible that Iran should have supplied Russia with the Shahed drones that are bringing destruction to Ukraine, in violation of UN Resolution 2231. On 20 October, the Government imposed sanctions on three Iranian commanders involved in supplying weaponry to Russia, along with the company that manufactures Shahed drones.
Earlier, on 30 September, Putin announced that Russia had annexed four regions of Ukraine spanning 40,000 square miles—the biggest land grab in Europe since the Second World War. Once again, this exposes his self-delusion. He has declared the annexation of territory that he has not captured, and what he had managed to seize he is in the process of losing.
On 12 October, 143 countries—three-quarters of the entire membership of the United Nations—voted in the General Assembly to condemn the annexations. Russia had just four supporters: Syria, Belarus, Nicaragua and North Korea. When those regimes are a country’s only friends, it really knows that it is isolated. When 141 countries denounced Putin’s invasion in March, some speculated that that was the ceiling of international support for Ukraine. The latest vote showed that even more nations are now ready to condemn Russia, but Putin still thinks that by forcing up food and energy prices, we will lose our resolve. Our task is to prove him wrong.
We will not waver in our support for Ukraine’s right to self-defence. I delivered that emphatic message when I spoke to my Ukrainian counterpart on Tuesday, and my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said the same to President Zelensky when they spoke on the phone—the first foreign leader who he called on his appointment as Prime Minister. On Thursday I will attend a meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers in Germany, where I will send a unified signal of our shared determination. This year, Britain gave Ukraine £2.3 billion of military support—more than any country in the world apart from the United States of America. We will provide Ukraine with more support to repair its energy infrastructure and we have committed £220 million of humanitarian aid.
The House will have noted Putin’s irresponsible talk about nuclear weapons and an absurd claim that Ukraine plans to detonate a radiological dirty bomb on its own territory. No other country is talking about nuclear use; no country is threatening Russia or President Putin. He should be clear that, for the UK and our allies, any use at all of nuclear weapons would fundamentally change the nature of this conflict. There would be severe consequences for Russia. How counterproductive would it be for Russia to break a norm against nuclear use that has held since 1945 and has underpinned global security?
Nothing will alter our conviction that the Ukrainians have a right to live in peace and freedom in their own lands. If Putin were to succeed, every expansionist tyrant would be emboldened to do their worst and no country would be safe. That is why we stand, and will continue to stand, alongside our Ukrainian friends until the day comes—as it inevitably will—that they prevail. I commend this Statement to the House.”
My Lords, I reiterate that these Benches are completely at one with the Government in giving full support to the Ukrainian people in their fight against Putin’s illegal and immoral act of aggression.
The Russian missiles launched against Ukrainian energy and water systems are part of a deliberate and callous strategy to target civilian infrastructure ahead of winter, causing as much damage to civilians as possible. Therefore, the resilience of Ukraine’s energy, heating and water systems is vital in resisting Russia’s attacks on that civilian infrastructure.
James Cleverly said yesterday in response to my right honourable friend David Lammy that
“the UK has pledged £100 million to support Ukraine’s energy security and to reform, and £74 million in fiscal grants to support Ukraine through the World Bank.”—[Official Report, Commons, 31/10/22; col. 625.]
All this is very welcome, but he was unable to give a specific answer on the number of generators we have supplied, and promised to find out the details. The reality is that, in such war conditions, practical support and speed of delivery are essential. In addition to detailing the number of generators that we will supply, can the Minister assure the House that we are working with all relevant suppliers to speed up matters? Also, can he tell the House whether such action is being co-ordinated in conjunction with our allies, particularly our European allies?
As we have heard in media reports today, Russia’s attacks on infrastructure and the electrical grid have not been limited to the use of drones, missiles and bombs. Europe Minister Leo Docherty said on the BBC this morning that Ukraine faces
“the same threat and same challenge in the cyber domain,”
representing the most extensive compromise of a single Government seen in history. He confirmed that support is provided through the FCDO, with officials saying that it has led the way among allies in providing specialist expertise. Can the Minister tell us whether this support is being co-ordinated with such allies? What assessment has the department made of the implications of escalation of the conflict?
In relation to arms supplies to the Russians, the Foreign Secretary said that the UK will be keeping a close eye on the actions of Iran, and indeed other countries. He confirmed that we would take appropriate action to dissuade them from supplying arms and would react if they do. Can the Minister assure the House that in reacting the Government would work in complete tandem with our allies, such as the US and the EU? On too many occasions we have been slower than our allies to react.
On the important issue of grain exports from Ukraine, the UN-backed agreement has been vital in reducing global food prices. Putin’s unjustifiable decision to pull out of this deal will undoubtedly have catastrophic consequences. It comes at a time when many countries are already food insecure, including Somalia, where an imminent famine is feared. This is a cruel and transparent use of hunger as blackmail. Any spike in world food prices will be the responsibility of the Russian Government. Therefore, this agreement must be restored.
The Foreign Secretary said that he had spoken to his Turkish counterparts in the past, expressing our gratitude for the work they have done in securing the grain export deal. However, it was unclear from what he said whether he has spoken to his Turkish counterparts and Turkey’s political leadership on the potential for restoring grain flows since Russia’s announcement. Have the Minister’s department or the Foreign Secretary been in touch with Turkey in recent days? The Foreign Secretary did not address the steps that the UK is considering to mitigate the worst consequences for the developing world if these efforts fail, but I hope the Minister will be able to do so today.
James Cleverly also told the other place that we are supplying a considerable number of air defence missiles, which is very welcome in light of the attacks we have seen. Can the Minister assure us that we are able to keep up with the demand for these missiles with our US and NATO allies? Can he assure the House that we can provide all the lethal and non-lethal equipment that is being requested?
I conclude by reiterating Labour’s full support for the Government’s actions in respect of Ukraine.
My Lords, as the barbarity of Putin continues and winter approaches, our admiration for the resilience of the people of Ukraine knows no bounds. The Minister knows that we have supported the government strategy; the support for the Ukrainian Government and people; and the sanctions regime— notwithstanding that we have highlighted areas where we could have gone further and faster on sanctions, as has been highlighted. There is no doubt that Putin wants both malaise and division in the West, and we support the Government in ensuring that that does not happen.
I have a number of questions for the Minister about the direct impact of the sanctions regime on Russia, which he will have heard me ask before. I ask for an update on what the direct impact of our sanctions has been, because they do not seem to have prevented the barbarity continuing in certain areas.
Could the Minister also be specific about what we are saying to our allies in the Gulf and in Asia, India in particular? Have the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister raised at the highest levels the concern about the impact of our allies providing neutrality but also therefore de facto support? This is a challenging area for UK foreign policy, but one we need to tackle. It would be depressing if we are so reliant on the Gulf’s inward investment and so hopeful for a trade deal with India that it prevents us having very hard conversations with our allies.
As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, indicated, we have seen the grotesque weaponisation of energy, fuel and grain by Russia. Prices have risen already with the 4 million tonnes of shipments that are being prevented from being distributed. As the Minister knows, this will have a disproportionate impact on the countries in east Africa and the Horn of Africa that are already facing famine. What direct measures are we taking to ensure that shipments can be released? What security support might be made available to ensure their supply?
The Minister knows that we have supported the UK’s support for Ukraine and we of course supported the resettlement scheme at home. He will also know that we have repeatedly highlighted concerns that this is provided at a direct cost to overseas assistance to countries in need. Figures suggest that the resettlement scheme at home for Ukrainians will be met entirely from ODA funds, which will mean that, for the first time in our nation’s history, more overseas development assistance will be spent domestically than bilaterally abroad. That is unprecedented. I hope the Minister will say that this is not correct.
It was disturbing to read Kwasi Kwarteng’s tweet in June, posted when he was BEIS Secretary, saying on supplying defence equipment:
“My Department has contributed to the effort by surrendering climate finance and foreign aid underspends.”
Countries with which we are seeking to build a diplomatic consensus against Putin are seeing the UK provide support, which is welcome, but at a direct cost for those countries. Just before the start of proceedings this afternoon, I met the deputy speaker of the Malawi Parliament, who raised questions as to why cutting support for young girls in Malawi was a cost of UK support for Ukraine. Surely this is a cost which will do us long-term damage. I hope the Minister is able to respond to these issues. We will not retain moral value in our work for Ukraine if other countries see us cut directly as a cost of it.
My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their statements of support for the Government’s position. As I have said before, it is important to show a unified stance in this House, in the other place and indeed as a country on the continued Russian war on the innocent people of Ukraine.
As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said in the introductory remarks to his questions, we have seen a continued onslaught, with Kyiv being indiscriminately targeted and the whole reasoning being to target basic energy supplies as winter approaches. On that point, as my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary made clear, we are in touch directly with the Ukrainian authorities. The new Prime Minister’s first call was to President Zelensky, and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has spoken again to Foreign Minister Kuleba. Yesterday, as we were going through the NIP Bill here, during the dinner break I had a brief conversation with the excellent, incredible, brave and courageous ambassador of Ukraine, who was again visiting Parliament. His spirit is inspirational to us all in the face of the onslaught on his country.
To go back slightly, on the specific question which the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, mentioned, of course I am acutely aware of the challenges of the ODA budget. He will have noticed the appointment of my right honourable friend Andrew Mitchell, who is an incredible advocate for development and development spending. At the moment I cannot give the noble Lord a breakdown of exactly what that spend will be, but we are in discussions with the Treasury. He is right to point out the challenges that the ODA budget faces. On a personal note, he will know that I am very much committed, as I have said several times, to the United Kingdom retaining the important place it has on the global stage with regard to development support. I know that Malawi has a particular place in the heart of every Scottish person; I think 43% of Scots have a link with someone in Malawi based on our development support.
On the issue the noble Lord raised about engaging with the Gulf states and India, I can say that my right honourable friend recently returned from India, having been on a conference there where he raised the issue directly with External Affairs Minister Jaishankar, and I know that Prime Minister Sunak has also spoken to Prime Minister Modi. The situation in Ukraine was part and parcel of their discussions, and that will continue. I assure the noble Lord, as the Minister for both India—as was confirmed to me this morning—and the Gulf, that I will certainly continue these conversations as part of my portfolio of responsibilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, also raised the issue of our co-ordination with Turkey. I fully acknowledge, as I am sure do all noble Lords, the important role that Turkey has played on the UN grain deal. Indeed, when I last met with the Foreign Minister of Turkey at the UN General Assembly, we commended Turkey’s efforts and the importance of its role continuing. We are working closely with Turkey in that respect. Since the announcement of Russian’s suspension there was a UN Security Council meeting only yesterday, and our embassy in Ankara has engaged, as have our teams at the UN in New York, and I know that the Foreign Secretary is very much planning to engage quite directly with his counterpart. Noble Lords may be aware that he is also travelling to the G7, where again these issues will be raised. On the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised about co-ordination and partnership, the Government hold that closely as a key priority in our response across the piece when it comes to standing up to Russian aggression.
The noble Lord, Lord Collins, raised the issue of energy security, and of course we are working directly to the requirements of the energy ministry of Ukraine and responding to its needs there. The Foreign Secretary will be looking at the issue of the price cap with the G7 partners. On the noble Lord’s specific question, I can say that to date we have provided 856 generators to Ukraine and we continue to work closely with Ukraine and alongside our key partners, be they NATO, the European Union, the United States or other allies, to ensure that we continue to be strong and solid in our support for what Ukraine requires.
Both noble Lords raised the important issue of sanctions. To date, we have seen over 1,200 individuals sanctioned specifically by the United Kingdom Government, along with 120 entities. There are quite specific details which I have mentioned before, but because of our sanctions we have seen a direct reduction in the growth of the Russian economy. There has been a disabling effect on Russia’s own economic progress, and of course we have seen that through some of the desperate actions that Russia is engaging in as a direct result of the economic sanctions being imposed. Of course, I take on board what the noble Lord said specifically about the need for continued co-ordination but also talking to other partners so that there is an even more united impact and effort to ensure that Russia feels the true cost and the impact of sanctions.
On the issue of grain supplies, the noble Lord is of course correct. However, Russia has again emphasised that this is a suspension, not a termination. About 100 ships were scheduled to go through the Bosphorus into the Black Sea and pick up grain, and a number of vessels are being allowed to return. The issue of course arises for inward vessels and their being part of the UN agreement. We are working in direct contact with the United Nations, which is overseeing this process along with Turkey, and we will update the House accordingly.
I stress again that this is a suspension. Russia called yesterday’s UN Security Council meeting, and we believe that the case it presented is unfounded. The Russians forgot to mention one material fact: that the Black Sea fleet is in Ukrainian territorial waters—a basic salient fact missed, or not articulated, by the Russians. That is the fundamental point in all this.
I fully acknowledge what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, said: the grain supply has provided lifelines. We have seen 700 million tonnes, I think, delivered to many vulnerable countries. Coming back to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, this includes Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Yemen, so there is real impact from what we are doing.
The issue of the drones provided by Iran was raised. On wider issues, noble Lords will know that the United Kingdom, along with our allies, has taken specific sanctions against Iran on the continuing and prevailing situation within the country, but we note specifically what more can be done, and how we can further limit the impact of such exports to Russia is being considered.
As noble Lords will know, in 2022, UK military support amounts to £2.3 billion: more than 200,000 pieces of non-lethal aid, including helmets, body armour, range fighters and medical equipment. Future delivery includes AMRAAM missiles for use in the US NASAMS air defence system—again showing the importance of co-ordinating with our key allies. We have also provided more than 100 logistic support vehicles, armoured vehicles and a further 600 short-range air defence missiles. There is an extensive programme of support for Ukraine, which is bearing results.
Let us not forget that, in the occupied areas of Ukraine, Ukrainian forces are now making forward moves; they are making progress. That is resulting in the reaction we are seeing in this indiscriminate bombing of Kyiv, in particular.
I assure noble Lords that we will continue to provide updates on a regular basis, and I will continue to update the noble Lords, Lord Collins and Lord Purvis, on the Front Benches, in the usual way.
My Lords, I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s commitment that the United Kingdom should remain one of the leading nations in equipping Ukraine to resist the Russian invasion and occupation of what is sovereign territory. In his maiden speech in July, my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham linked the Russian blockade with the risk of a devastating famine in the Horn of Africa and east Africa. With the suspension of the Black Sea grain initiative, does the Minister agree that this strengthens the case to restore the overseas aid budget to 0.7% without further delay?
My Lords, as a man of faith, it is always good to see colleagues giving way to God in any contributions that are made. The right reverend Prelate raises the important issue of the Black Sea grain initiative. Notwithstanding the reduction to 0.5%, the United Kingdom has been very firm in our support and we have worked together with international partners. I do not think that prevents us providing the vital support needed. Within the context of the support the FCDO gives in overseas development assistance, humanitarian support rightly remains a key priority.
My Lords, the UK has led the way in supporting Ukraine, and I am very grateful to my noble friend for updating your Lordships’ House on the current support—much of which, however, is relatively short term. I welcome the addition of 853 generators, as I think my noble friend said, but that will not solve Ukraine’s long-term energy crisis. Without getting ahead of ourselves towards the end of the war, is not now the time to be talking to our international allies to try to bring together what would be a Marshall plan for Ukraine for long-term investment? All too often, as we saw in Iraq, we have not got these issues right in times of conflict.
My Lords, my noble friend speaks with expert insight on these issues, but I assure him that we are focused on immediate, medium and long-term support. The UK has pledged £100 million to support Ukraine’s energy security and reform, and £74 million in fiscal grant support to Ukraine through the World Bank. We have also provided guarantees which have unlocked nearly £1.3 billion pounds, $1.5 billion of World Bank and EBRD lending to Ukraine, and the first $415 million of this, and the second $500 million in September, have been deployed through the World Bank to fund key lines of government expenditure. This is done in co-ordination with the IFIs and key partners.
My Lords, I understand from the Minister that it was Russia that convened the meeting of the Security Council at which this suspension was made clear. However, in the light of the comments from my noble friend Lord Collins and the right reverend Prelate, it is absolutely vital that the United Kingdom does everything it can in the Security Council to help the Secretary-General renegotiate or restart this agreement for grain, because so much of the world in parts of the Middle East depends on it for its existence.
I assure the noble Viscount that that is exactly what we are doing. Our excellent ambassador, Dame Barbara Woodward, has emphasised the importance of restarting this initiative. We are working closely with and behind the UN to ensure that the initiative, which is saving lives in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world, is restored as immediately as possible.
My Lords, further to my noble friend’s interesting reply to the noble Lord, Lord Purvis, does he agree that, right from the start, the priority has been to prevail not just on the battlefield but in isolating Russia and its war machine from supplies and trade right around the world? Does he agree that our diplomats ought at least to be able to mobilise the other 55 members of the Commonwealth to ensure that they take a stronger position than some of them have against the Russian attack on humanity, on the international rule of law and on the decent standards by which all government has prevailed throughout this world?
My Lords, I assure my noble friend that the Government are working with key partners, including in the Commonwealth. I sat through the Foreign Ministers’ meeting where we negotiated the communiqué. It was the United Kingdom, along with key allies, that ensured the importance of language in the communiqué on Ukraine and made the case for it very strongly. More broadly, as the Minister for the United Nations, I know that our diplomats have done an excellent job. As I am sure my noble friend noted, 143 nations of the United Nations recently voted with Ukraine on the issue of annexation. The engagement and unity being shown on the diplomatic front is being co-ordinated extensively with key partners; we will continue to make the case to other allies as well.
Further to that question, what discussions are the Government having with allies on what comes next? Specifically, there can be no return to normal international relations, with Russia in a position of leadership, given the flagrant way in which Putin is systematically breaking humanitarian law and all the rules of warfare to pursue this conflict.
I agree with the noble Lord’s points. I assure him that we are using all our engagements, both bilaterally and through multilateral fora. As I mentioned earlier, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary will meet our G7 partners. Indeed, on a more medium to long-term basis, we will once again host the Ukrainian reconstruction conference here in London next year; again, that will be an opportunity to bring a lot of partners together to look at what economic support Ukraine needs. However, the noble Lord is right: we must stand in unity—and there is some unity. I remember that, when we achieved 140 and 141 votes at the UN, we were told that we had reached the pinnacle of international collaboration. Many thought that it could not be reached again, but we did; we reached 143. That shows the absolute abhorrence towards Russia’s action against Ukraine across the world.
My Lords, do Ministers—indeed, colleagues—genuinely believe that, with 200,000 troops in training and large swathes of Ukrainian territory under tyrannical occupation, the Russian leadership of a brutal Putin, who is systematically destroying infrastructure and murdering the innocent, is going to back off and withdraw? If, behind closed doors, they do not believe it, why do they not at least try to discreetly initiate talks to end the conflict? We need urgently to restore stability to the international economy and end the worldwide suffering in a war that seeks no end and could further escalate.
My Lords, Russia is not winning. The noble Lord talked about training conscripts. We have seen images: when Russia imposed this conscription on its citizens, they fled to the borders. We have seen reports in the media today of so-called trained people having been sent to the front line with equipment that is not just dated but pretty redundant in terms of its use. That is a sign of real desperation. Of course, Ukraine, with the unity of support, including military support, that we have seen from across the world, is making gains and getting back its territory. I put it to the noble Lord—we have had these exchanges before—that if someone occupies your back garden, then your conservatory and then your back room, are you going to say, “It’s okay, let’s negotiate”? I do not think so.
My Lords, in the light of what is an existential threat not just to Ukraine but to the long-term peace, security and future of the European continent and, I suggest, the world, the Government are to be congratulated on what they have done in giving support and material to the Ukrainians.
However—I will choose my words carefully—does my noble friend the Minister not agree that it is absolutely extraordinary that, after eight months of war and depleting our missile stocks, that we are not spending more money on defence and are not even talking about it? The integrated defence review is out of date. Defence is like an insurance policy: you spend money on it and have to pay your premiums. If you do not pay them, guess what? The insurance policy does not work.
Again, my noble friend has a lot of experience in the field. I pay tribute to how he has represented our nation. I listen very carefully to his contributions. Not only will I ensure that I take that back to the department but I agree with him: our defence capabilities are a cornerstone of our international presence around the world. We need to have a strong defence at home and when supporting our international partners, as we are doing in Ukraine.
My Lords, the Minister will have seen reports that, when she was foreign secretary, Liz Truss’s telephone was hacked by the Russians, including her conversations with other world leaders including President Zelensky. In that way, the Russians might have gained important information. What information and advice are now being given to Ministers, particularly in the Foreign Office and the MoD, on the security of their telephone conversations?
My Lords, I will not comment specifically, nor would the noble Lord expect me to. However, throughout government, it is important that we remain vigilant. That goes for those who are in international-facing roles within the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the Ministry of Defence. I know from my own experience of visits that I make that appropriate precautions are taken.
Of course, cyber is ever evolving. Today, my honourable friend Leo Docherty also mentioned the support that we are giving to Ukraine around cyber. Increasingly, we have called out cyberattacks, which are not just by individual people or organisations but state-sponsored. We need to remain vigilant. This is an ever-growing threat. We need to ensure that our defences, be they personal, organisational, parliamentary, departmental, or by country —including around national infrastructure —are the best at all times.
My Lords, a moment ago at the Dispatch Box, the Minister said that his responsibilities included the Gulf states and that he will be in further discussions with them. What would the Minister expect Gulf states to do differently after the discussions to show progress in their support for Ukraine and against Russian aggression?
My Lords, we are already seeing progress. Specifically, we have seen certain Gulf states move their positions from abstention to supporting Ukraine’s position within multilateral fora, particularly the United Nations. That is down to extensive diplomacy and making the robust case that the aggressor here is Russia. Ukraine’s sovereign territory has been impeached. Russia needs to stop the war and withdraw, then discussions can begin.
My Lords, the Minister’s response to the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, was completely correct. This is not a time not for negotiation but for increasing support for Ukraine so that it can go on to defeat the Russians and free its territory. On sanctions, what assessment have Ministers made of the case for targeted sanctions for those responsible for the arrest, prosecution and detention on trumped up charges of the British citizen, Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is also a leader of the Russian opposition? Will the Minister meet me and other campaigners to discuss this issue?
My Lords, I will not go into a specific case, but I agree totally with the noble Lord’s earlier comments. We need to ensure that we stand firm against Russian aggression. He is also right that Russian aggression is not limited to Ukraine. When noble Lords say that this was about Crimea, what about South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, and, of course, the Russian people themselves? Our fight is not against the Russian people. Many noble Russians are standing up to Mr Putin and paying the ultimate cost. I look forward to meeting the noble Lord if there are particular issues.
I totally agree with my noble friend. That is why I am proud of the fact that, notwithstanding the tragedy that is unfolding on the Ukrainian people, the United Kingdom has stood, along with other key partners, as a true friend to Ukraine.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that a just end to this wicked war will require the removal of Putin from power? This removal can come only from within Russia, but the date of the removal is getting ever closer as he imposes humiliation, pain and deprivation, and sacrifices the lives of his own people in pursuit of his mad aims.
My Lords, who leads Russia is ultimately a matter for the Russian people, but what is clear, and should be very clear to Mr Putin when he looks across the international stage and sees who supports him and who voted with Russia—Nicaragua, Belarus, and I believe that North Korea has supported Russia on occasions—is that a person is judged by their friends; Mr Putin does not have many friends left.
My Lords, in order to get a compliant population in territory that the Russians occupy, the Kremlin is operating a policy that it describes as “filtration”, which involves the forcible kidnapping, deportation and dispersal of Ukrainian citizens, in a clear breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Last month, the United States State Department estimated that this involved many thousands of Ukrainian citizens. Does my noble friend have an up-to-date estimate of the numbers involved? Will he ensure that the plight of those kidnapped people, involving many thousands of children, is not forgotten?
My Lords, on my noble friend’s second question, I assure him that the United Kingdom will continue to work with key partners in making the case for those most vulnerable and most innocent, and indeed those being imposed on in this way and taken away from their families. I will write to him on the numbers.
Can the Minister assure me that, in supplying the heavy weaponry and such other support as we rightly give to Ukraine in resisting cyberattack and so forth, we place no inhibition on the Ukrainians in terms of their reciprocally trying to attack infrastructure behind Russian lines?
My Lords, the United Kingdom has long recognised the importance of working with Ukraine and ensuring its troops are well trained. Indeed, for many years since the annexation of Crimea, through a programme called Orbital, our Ministry of Defence has been working on specific issues including training Ukrainian personnel, and that will continue. Ukraine is a sovereign nation, and we are a partner and friend to Ukraine. It continues to operate and, indeed, to make gains. The Ukrainians’ end objective is a simple one: they want their territory back, and I think that is a noble intent.
My Lords, the Minister will be aware that the rivers Dnieper and Dniester have very large dams along their routes, and Russia has indicated publicly that it wants to attack and denude Ukrainian infrastructure. What assessment has HMG made of possible catastrophic damage to these dams?
It is interesting that along the routes of those rivers and dams is exactly where the Ukrainian forces are now making gains. This is a desperate attempt to stop further advances and the regaining of territory by Ukraine. It is a further example of the kind of disinformation Russia is putting out, even suggesting, as it did earlier today, that it is the Ukrainians who would seek to destroy those dams. We need to be vigilant about disinformation from Russia, but at the same time very cognisant of the fact that as Ukraine is making gains and regaining territory, Russia is resorting to the most desperate measures.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is asking me to speculate on the outcome of the mid-term elections, but I will resist such temptation. Ultimately, whatever happens in the United States, it has shown itself to be a steadfast partner to Ukraine and it will make judgments and decisions on how it best supports Ukraine. What I can say is that we work very closely with the United States. It is our closest partner and ally, and when it comes to Ukraine, we stand firm and united in our response.
My Lords, the Statement rightly expresses horror at missiles destroying critical national infrastructure. Russian attacks are also indiscriminately targeting residential areas and causing significant civilian casualties. I am sure the Minister is aware of the report Explosive Weapons with Wide Area Effects, released by the International Red Cross at the start of this year. In it, the IRC’s chief legal officer said:
“The extent of civilian suffering and destruction in today’s armed conflicts makes it urgently necessary for states and all parties … to reassess and adapt their choice of weapons when conducting hostilities in populated areas.”
Does the Minister agree that we need to strengthen international standards, controls and conventions in order to increase the pressure on activities such as those of President Putin and his regime?
My Lords, I listened very carefully to the noble Baroness. I am sure she will agree that we can raise all the international standards we like, but when it comes to Mr Putin, international standards do not matter to him. He has torn up the UN convention, the very basis on which the UN, of which Ukraine was a founding member, was founded. He has torn up the very sovereignty of a key nation. On raising thresholds, we have a robust scheme and the noble Baroness often asks questions on that, but I think raising international standards will have no effect on Mr Putin.