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Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I also thank Mr Whittingdale for securing it. The shadow Foreign Secretary, my right hon. Friend Emily Thornberry, sends her apologies for not being here to respond, but she is attending the annual lunch of the Labour Friends of Israel.
The events of the past 48 hours have been deeply troubling for all of us who want to see a return to peace, stability and the rule of law across the whole of Ukraine. Instead, incidents such as this make an already intense situation worse and risk widening the conflict. As the NATO spokesman said yesterday, we need to see calm and restraint on both sides and we need both sides to commit to de-escalation. In particular, Russia must abide by international law, as the Minister just stated, which means allowing Ukrainian ships unhindered access to Ukrainian ports on the sea of Azov. There is no excuse for blocking that access, let alone firing on the ships and seizing them. Will the Minister confirm whether he or his colleague will speak to their Russian counterparts and make clear when that discussion will take place?
At the same time, it has been worrying to see the reaction of the Ukrainian Government in declaring martial law. The Minister has said that he has secured agreement from the President that that will not lead to a cessation of any elections that are due to take place in the new year. While these issues are going on, proper democratic structures need to continue robustly to entrench Ukraine on the democratic footing from which we want it to move forward.
The Minister will agree that if the elections do not take place, that will be a backward step—not just for democracy, but for peace, stability and the rule of law, which we want to see across the whole of the region.