With permission, Mr Speaker, I wish to update the House on our support for Ukraine in the face of Putin’s premeditated, pre-planned and barbaric invasion. Ukraine has suffered horrific attacks. Missiles and air strikes have torn through apartment blocks. Tanks have rolled into once peaceful cities. Innocent people, including children, have lost their lives.
The situation is fluid, but as of today, Putin has not taken any major cities. The advance has been slowed by Ukraine’s fierce resistance. Putin’s invasion is not proceeding to plan. He expected to take cities quickly. He expected Ukraine to retreat. And he expected the West to be divided. Instead, his forces were met by the heroism of President Zelensky and the resolute determination of the Ukrainian people. He has been met by a united west, together with our friends around the world, and we have taken decisive action.
Today, we have acted with the US, the EU, Japan and Canada to cut off Russia’s central bank from our markets. The rouble has fallen by more than 40% as a result. As much as $250 billion has been wiped off the Russian stock market and, today, its stock market is closed. The EU, Germany, Sweden and others are following our lead in providing defensive weapons to Ukraine, and Germany has frozen Nord Stream 2.
Putin has been confounded by our collective response. That is why he is resorting to more and more extreme rhetoric. But, of course, the situation remains dire. The Government and people of Ukraine are facing a continued onslaught. The days ahead are likely to prove tougher still.
The UK and our allies will have to undergo some economic hardship as a result of our sanctions, but our hardships are nothing compared to those endured by the people of Ukraine. Casualty numbers are rising, and more than 300,000 people have already been displaced. This is a struggle for Ukraine’s freedom and self-determination, but it is also a struggle for freedom and democracy everywhere and for the survival of a Europe whole and free. We feel a particular responsibility as the UK is a signatory to the 1994 Budapest memorandum, which provided Ukraine with security guarantees.
This premeditated invasion, in violation of international law and multiple international commitments, cannot succeed. Putin must lose. We are doing everything that we can to stop him and to restore Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will do this by backing Ukraine against unjustified aggression, by degrading the Russian economy and stopping it from funding Putin’s war machine, and by isolating Putin on the world stage.
First, we are backing Ukraine with defensive weapons, humanitarian aid and economic support. The UK was the first European nation to send defensive weapons to the country, and those weapons are being used today to halt Russian tanks and defend Ukrainian towns and cities. Our latest consignment of defensive support left Brize Norton over the weekend. We are also leading on humanitarian support. Yesterday, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced a further £40 million of humanitarian aid, which will provide Ukrainians with access to basic necessities and vital medical supplies. We call on Russia to enable humanitarian access and safe passage for civilians to flee the violence. The UK is also supporting Ukraine’s economy, including through £100 million of official development assistance and guarantees of up to $500 million in development bank loans.
Secondly, we are cutting off funding for Putin’s war machine. We are coming together with the US, the G7 and the EU to take further decisive steps. We have been joined by Australia, Singapore, Switzerland and many more. There is a growing list of countries who are determined that this aggression cannot stand. We have agreed that many Russian banks will be removed from the SWIFT system, kicking them out of international finance. That is the first step towards a total SWIFT ban. Our collective action against Russia’s central bank will prevent it from deploying its international reserves to mitigate the impact of our sanctions.
We are also launching a joint taskforce to hunt down the assets of oligarchs hit by our sanctions. The UK is proud to lead by example. We have already put in place the largest package of sanctions in our history. We have sanctioned Putin and Lavrov, Russia’s defence industry and a growing list of oligarchs. We have approved asset freezes on several Russian banks and we are banning Russian airlines and private jets from our airspace, but we are determined to go much, much further. We want a situation where they cannot access their funds, their trade cannot flow, their ships cannot dock and their planes cannot land.
Today, I inform the House that I will be laying two new pieces of sanctions legislation. The first will introduce a set of new powers against Russia’s financial sector, including powers to prevent Russian banks from clearing payments in sterling. With over 50% of Russian trade denominated in dollars or sterling, our co-ordinated action with the United States will damage Russia’s ability to trade with the world, and as soon as this legislation comes into force, we will apply it to Sberbank—Russia’s largest bank.
I will also be imposing a full asset freeze on three further banks: VEB, Russia’s national development bank; Sovcombank, the third largest privately owned financial institution in Russia; and Otkritie, one of Russia’s largest commercial banks. We will bring in a full asset freeze on all Russian banks in days, looking to co-ordinate with our allies. The same legislation will prevent the Russian state from raising debt here, and will isolate all Russian companies—more than 3 million businesses—from accessing UK capital markets. Global giants such as Gazprom will no longer be able to issue debt or equity in London.
The second piece of legislation will ban exports to Russia across a range of critical sectors. This includes high-end technological equipment such as microelectronics and marine and navigation equipment. This will blunt Russia’s military-industrial capabilities and act as a drag on Russia’s economy for years to come. I appreciate the consequences of this step for British people and British businesses operating in Russia. The Department for International Trade and the Treasury will offer advice and guidance to affected UK businesses. My consular staff will continue to support British nationals in Russia, as well as those in Ukraine.
We will keep ratcheting up our response. More legislation will follow in the coming weeks, sanctioning Russian-occupied territories in the Donbas, extending more sanctions to Belarus, and limiting Russian deposits in UK banks. We will continue working through our hit list of oligarchs, focusing on their houses, their yachts, and every aspect of their lives. In addition, we will introduce the economic crime Bill tomorrow; my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will set out more in the next statement in the House. This is all about flushing out the oligarchs’ dirty money from the United Kingdom. We will continue to work with our G7 allies to cut off the Russian economy and cut the free world’s dependence on Russian gas, depriving Putin of his key source of revenue.
Finally, we are leading the diplomatic effort to ensure that there is a chorus of condemnation against President Putin. In the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a key part of the European security architecture, 45 countries condemned Russia by name. At the UN Security Council on Friday, more than 80 UN members voted for, or co-sponsored, a resolution condemning Russia’s aggression. Russia stood alone in opposing it. Putin is isolated. No one is willing to back his war of choice. In recent days, I have spoken to my counterparts in more than 20 countries around the world. Yesterday, I met G7 Foreign Ministers. We were joined by Ukraine’s brave Foreign Minister, my friend Dmytro Kuleba. Everyone is clear that Putin must lose, and we will carry on increasing the pressure until he does.
We have all seen Ukraine’s determination to fight. Putin’s war could end up lasting for months and years, so I say to our Ukrainian friends, “We are with you. In Britain, and around the world, we’re prepared to suffer economic sacrifices to support you. However long it takes, we will not rest until Ukraine’s sovereignty is restored.”
I commend this statement to the House.
We have all been inspired by the gallant and tenacious actions of Ukrainians in defence of their country. This is true courage under fire. President Zelensky has epitomised the bravery, dignity and resolve of a nation fighting back, and fighting for values that we all share—democracy, freedom and the rule of law. The Foreign Secretary is right when she says that Putin’s invasion is not so far going to plan, but does she agree that we must not let our focus slip for even a second? We will continue to stand united with our allies and partners, supporting Ukraine and opposing this outrageous campaign of aggression.
This morning, I had the honour, with the shadow Defence Secretary my right hon. Friend John Healey, of meeting Ukraine’s ambassador. He thanks all sides of this House for the united opposition we have shown to Vladimir Putin’s illegal war and the support we continue to show for Ukrainian sovereignty. Putin is not only facing a united west; he is facing a truly United Kingdom. Together, we have enacted sanctions that are having a strong effect. The rouble has crashed by over 40%, the main borrowing rate is up 20%, and inflation is reportedly hitting about 65% per year. Oligarchs are being frozen out of their bank accounts and the central bank of Russia is being blocked from part of the $640 billion war chest that it holds in foreign reserves. Labour’s priority is to cut off Putin’s rogue state from our economic system and to undermine his campaign of aggression in Ukraine.
We recognise that on
Yesterday, President Putin raised the alert level of Russian nuclear forces. As the five nuclear weapon states, including Russia, reaffirmed in January, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of that decision, given the understandable concern it will have caused among the public?
Turning to sanctions, we welcome the further steps the Government have announced today. Labour has been calling for some time for progress by the UK, the EU and the US on cutting off Russian banks from SWIFT. The moves finally to clamp down on dirty money—so long demanded by Labour and colleagues across the House—are long overdue. It is regrettable that it has taken so long and a crisis of this nature for such action, but we welcome the steps and will study them carefully. However, there is still more the Government can do.
The last time I stood at the Dispatch Box, I asked what steps the Government had taken to ensure that members of Russia’s legislature, the Duma, could be sanctioned. Still today, I am waiting for that answer. Similarly, although I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s action against Russia’s financial sector, the Government should go further to ensure sanctions can also be placed against Russia’s extractive industries, energy industries and technological industries. We must ensure that the insurance industry cannot underwrite and de-risk Putin’s war. As I said at my last time at the Dispatch Box, it is vital that the sanctions are broad enough to inflict damage on every aspect of Russia’s economy. We welcome the moves the Government have taken to ensure Russia is cut out of the SWIFT banking system, but can the Foreign Secretary explain what dialogue she has had with our allies on cutting the country out of the Visa-Mastercard system, too?
Finally, can the Foreign Secretary give assurances that Putin will also feel the consequences of his despicable actions in terms of international opportunities available to the country in sports and culture? The diplomatic unity of the west is crucial, but we must also widen the global coalition opposing the war. Some countries, such as Kenya, have spoken out with clarity and elegance against Putin’s imperialism, but others have stayed silent. Some are even allies of the UK and fellow democracies. What steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure the widest possible range of voices speaks up in opposition to this war?
As well as commending the bravery of the Ukrainians defending their country, we must also praise the courage of the ordinary Russians taking to the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg and beyond under the threat of repression to show their opposition to this despot. This is the fifth day of fighting. Ukraine is still facing an all-out war from Putin’s army. It is a mark of the bravery of Ukraine’s forces that neither Kyiv nor Kharkiv have fallen. We salute their courage, and this whole House will continue to stand with them.
I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his statement of unity; a strong message is going out to Putin and around the world that the United Kingdom is united in our support for Ukraine. We can see that from the demonstrations and from the public concern and interest in this appalling act of aggression and invasion that has taken place.
Yesterday, I joined a call with the G7 Foreign Ministers. We agreed that the sanctions that we had put in place so far are having an impact, but we need to do more. We need to work in unison and act in unity. We also agreed to increase the supply of defensive weapons in Ukraine.
The right hon. Gentleman is correct: Germany has taken courageous steps. It has transformed its energy policy and its defence policy, and we have seen a huge rising of public opinion right across Europe. I also want to praise Japan, South Korea and Singapore, which have put sanctions on for the first time.
I and my Foreign Office colleagues are putting in calls to Foreign Ministries around the world. We are encouraging more countries to put on sanctions and to speak out at the UN. The right hon. Gentleman is right that there are some countries that are democracies which should be standing up against the invasion of a sovereign democracy, and we are making that point to them day and night. What we are seeing is that Putin is completely isolated. There is nobody else backing him up in international forums and there is a growing group of countries prepared to put sanctions on and to supply defensive weapons. We are leading the charge in bringing those countries on board.
On the specific issues that the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, we have a hit list of oligarchs and Duma members that we are working through to sanction as soon as we can. Foreign Office officials are working through the night. We have extra lawyers and have tripled the amount of people in our sanctions department to make that happen. We are looking at more sanctions on the energy industry and the technology industry. We want to see a total ban on SWIFT transactions. We are encouraging our allies across the world to back that. We also want to see a full bank freeze in the coming days.
It is vitally important that we maintain unity with our allies. There are many countries that are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas. The UK gets only 3% of its energy from Russian oil and gas. The figure for some countries is as high as 90% or 100%; we have to reduce that over time, and that is what we are working on through the G7.
I am very pleased that the right hon. Gentleman has backed the approach we are taking. I want to continue to work cross-party to do all we can to support the brave people of Ukraine and to make sure that Putin loses.
I call the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat.
I very much welcome my right hon. Friend’s commitment. She has been working literally through the weekend, night and day, to get these sanctions right and to get them in place. Will she join me in assuring the Russian people that the moneys frozen—the moneys seized—which are, let us face it, very often stolen from them in the first instance, will be held and returned to the Russian people when this criminal conspiracy that laughably calls itself a Government falls and they actually have a proper Administration to which it can be returned? Will she also join me in urging many other countries around the world to join together and create a single fund from which a repayment mechanism can be created for the damage done to Ukraine and the rebuilding of Russia in due course?
My hon. Friend is right. Our issue is not with the Russian people, many of whom are now protesting against this appalling regime; it is with Putin and his cronies. That is who we are targeting with our hit on oligarchs. My hon. Friend is right that that money should be protected. I will look into the idea that he puts forward.
I call the SNP spokesperson.
I am grateful for sight of the statement. The SNP is part of the global coalition in defence of Ukraine in international law. I commend the Foreign Secretary and her Ministers on the openness with which they have dealt with Opposition Members. That trust will be reciprocated; this is too serious a time.
If anything, I urge more. I support the statement and we will support the sanctions measures as they come forward, but I urge more and I urge faster ambition, particularly on refugees. The UK needs to waive visas, not wave flags. The EU has really given the lie to the generosity of the UK’s response on refugees by waiving visas for three years for all Ukrainian nationals. The UK needs to do the same. I appreciate that it is not in the Secretary of State’s remit, but I really urge the Government to act on the issue, because it is certainly the one most raised with me.
The EU’s response through the civil protection mechanism and the peace facility dwarfs the UK’s. The EU has acted with one voice: 27 member states are acting together. I really urge the UK to complement those efforts and match their scale and ambition in its measures, which we support but wish to see more of.
I have some specific questions about sanctions. We all agree about tackling oligarchs, but what plans are there to tackle and target the family members of oligarchs? When we were in Kyiv recently, that was mentioned as a particularly effective way of putting on pressure. I also note that there will be an advice facility for UK businesses affected by the sanctions. Is any consideration being given to providing financial aid for UK businesses hit by the sanctions? That seems the morally correct thing to do.
The Foreign Secretary will be aware of reports of a Russian tanker heading for Orkney to pick up oil. Will the legal powers to impound such vessels be in place in time for us to do so?
I agree that we need to continue to do more on sanctions. We are working night and day, including with our allies, to get tougher sanctions, the full ban on SWIFT payments and the full asset freeze on banks, which we want to introduce in the next few days, as well as targeting the oil industry and the gas industry, which is ultimately the most important thing because it is funding Putin’s war machine.
As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary said at Home Office questions, we are creating a new Ukrainian humanitarian route to enable families of British nationals to come to the United Kingdom. It will mean that an additional 100,000 Ukrainians can seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom.
Further to the latest announcement that Switzerland, Japan and other democracies are joining to impose sanctions, what more can we do to convince other democracies that have not condemned this atrocity or implemented sanctions to do so?
My hon. Friend is right. There is nobody in the world lining up with Vladimir Putin and his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, but we need more democracies and more sovereign nations to stand up, because we cannot have a world where might is right and international law can just be ridden roughshod over.
We in the Foreign Office and Ministers across Government are making those points to our counterparts around the world, but this is where I think parliamentarians can help: many people in this House have good contacts with overseas Governments. We need to encourage those Governments to stand up and put sanctions in place. I had a call this morning with some Foreign Ministers who had never put sanctions in place before but are now considering it. There are many more who are on the verge of imposing sanctions. I strongly encourage Members across the House to get on the phone to those Ministers and those Governments, because this has created global outrage and we need to see that reflected in complete degradation of the Russian economy.
Order. I am looking to run this statement for about an hour. Short questions and speedy answers would help us all.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for the progress that she is making. I ask just two questions. First, it is still unclear to me and, I think, to most members of the public whether members of the Duma can be sanctioned by this Government. Will the Foreign Secretary clarify that point for us? Secondly, it is not just Russia; jurisdictions such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan are also complicit in supporting Putin in his endeavours. Is she taking any action to sanction members of those jurisdictions?
Members of the Duma can and will be sanctioned. We are working through the list of members in the same way as we are working through our hit list of oligarchs. I will look into the issues surrounding Kazakhstan and other nations. We are already sanctioning Belarus, and we will shortly impose more sanctions on it for its complicity in this abhorrent invasion.
It is indeed day five of the fighting, but the bells of St Michael’s in Kyiv continue to ring as the Ukrainians thwart the progress of the Russian Red Army. Good on them: Slava Ukraini to our friends in Ukraine. But sanctions, although they are so important, will not be enough. May I urge the Foreign Secretary to see how we can widen the sanctions package internationally? Any sanctions that we impose will be mopped up by Russia’s new long-term friend China. The United Nations General Assembly is sitting today; may I urge the UK to table a resolution on sanctions which means that China is obliged to follow them along with everyone else?
This sanctions package has been agreed across the G7, which represents more than 50% of the global economy. That is a significant hit on the Russian economy, and it will help to degrade the Russian economy over time. The key issue is reducing dependency on oil and gas, but, as my right hon. Friend says, we must also ensure that there is no sanctions leakage into other countries. I have spoken to my Chinese counterpart. The Chinese did not vote with the Russians at the UN Security Council. I am making very clear to China, and to other major nations, their responsibilities to protect the sovereignty and self-determination of Ukraine, and we continue to put pressure on them.
The Foreign Secretary may be aware that last week I named 35 Russian oligarchs who are on the Navalny list, At the top of that list was Roman Abramovich, who curiously decided a couple of days ago—and said it out loud—that he wanted to transfer Chelsea football club into some kind of trust. The concern is, of course, that oligarchs are working with their lawyers and their accountants to do the same. Can the Foreign Secretary assure the House that we will not stop but will follow the money, and no matter where it may or may not be transferred, we will find it and we will seize it?
I can indeed assure the hon. Lady that that is exactly what we are doing. We have a very large team of people working through our hit list of oligarchs, and we are also looking at their properties and their ownership of yachts. We have already grounded their private jets. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will make a statement immediately after this about the economic crime Bill, which will give greater transparency to the opaque corporate structures operated by some of these people and organisations, and will bring much more clarity and sunlight.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and all the team on their robust leadership in the course of this. It has brought a great deal of cheer in Ukraine.
My right hon. Friend also spoke about chasing the oligarchs. We should remind everyone that the oligarchs are mostly in possession of Putin’s own personal fortune, which is in the order of $200 billion to $250 billion, squirrelled away through their accounts. However, my right hon. Friend will be slightly hamstrung, because although we pursue the oligarchs and their money, it is still not an offence for those who have worked with them—their lawyers, their estate agents and all the others—to fail to yield the information about what deals they have done. Will she now, in the Bill, make it mandatory for all those in the chain immediately, when someone is sanctioned, to pass that information up directly, or they will themselves be committing a criminal offence?
My right hon. Friend has made a very good point. We are looking at what we can do to target the families of oligarchs, the people who work for them, the people who support them and the people who enable them, because ultimately all these people are supporting the Putin regime, and we ultimately need to stop the financing of that regime.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that it does not dissuade me when people send me letters; it encourages me when people send me letters, and they are on our list.
The armed forces and the people of Ukraine are fighting hard and fighting brave, and their courage is an inspiration to us and to all freedom-loving peoples around the world. On financial sanctions, I commend the Government for taking a lead in the west on those sanctions. Following on from the comments of the shadow Secretary of State on Visa, Mastercard and Diners Club, which are of course American companies, I have been on the phone this weekend to the US Congress, as the Foreign Secretary might expect. Can I ask her to get on the phone to Secretary Blinken to put pressure on him for perhaps a temporary ban in order that we have not only external pressure but internal pressure?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his leadership of the all-party parliamentary group on Ukraine. We will be doing more with our friendship group for the Ukrainians to raise international support behind the Ukrainian cause. I can tell him that I have been on the phone to Tony Blinken on many occasions in the last few weeks. He is going to travel to Europe this week, and I will be meeting him. I will also be in the United States the following week. The UK does all it can to ensure that the G7 is moving forward in all these areas of sanctions, including financial services, and we will not rest until we have completely cut the Russian economy off, and cut it off from its supply of oil and gas money to ensure that Putin does not have the money to fund his war machine.
The people of Northern Ireland stand with the people of Ukraine and we commend the Government for taking a lead in the international community on many of these issues. The Foreign Secretary spoke of humanitarian assistance. Will that extend to the United Kingdom opening its doors to some of the refugees from Ukraine?
We are already donating £40 million of additional humanitarian assistance to Ukraine. We are also providing direct support in the neighbouring countries, helping our friends the Poles and the Slovaks with the exodus of refugees from Ukraine. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has announced that we will be supporting the immediate families of British citizens here—[Interruption.] I understand what the right hon. Gentleman is saying about further support for those refugees.
I spent yesterday afternoon with dozens of members of Huddersfield and Colne Valley’s Ukrainian community, along with other political figures from the area. They really welcome what we are doing on sanctions, as well as our humanitarian aid and military support, but one of the many questions they are asking is about visas. Can the Foreign Secretary please reiterate the announcement that was made in the last hour and explain what it means for getting those people’s families and loved ones back to the UK safely?
My hon. Friend is right to suggest that we have a very strong Ukrainian community right across the United Kingdom. We are determined to do all we can to support the Ukrainians in their fight for freedom and sovereignty. We are introducing the new Ukrainian humanitarian route, which responds directly to the needs and asks of the Ukrainian Government. This gives British nationals and any persons settled in the UK the ability to bring over their immediate Ukrainian family members. This extension alone will mean that an additional 100,000 Ukrainians will be able to seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom. I am sure that the Home Secretary will outline more details of the scheme in due course.
I also want to say that I stand with Ukraine and support the Foreign Secretary in the measures she has announced this afternoon. I congratulate her on the unifying way in which she is doing that, but does she agree that the language we use is incredibly important in these delicate times? Also, can she say anything about the Commonwealth’s involvement?
The hon. Lady is right that language is very important. This war is not on behalf of the Russian people; this war has been instigated by President Putin, and it is very important that we focus on the personal agency that he has had in mounting this unprovoked attack on Ukraine. I understand that there is huge strength of feeling across the United Kingdom, and we reflect that in everything we do.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the announcement that she and the Prime Minister made about humanitarian relief. I urge her to join other European countries in helping to shoulder the financial burden of the humanitarian load on the frontline states. Most people who flee across the border want to stay as close as possible to the areas from which they have been driven, and all European countries must give the strongest support to those driven out in great fear and terror by this extraordinary and barbaric Russian behaviour.
Debbie Abrahams asked about our friends across the Commonwealth, and I assure her that we are approaching them to secure their support for the sanctions, for the strong stance against Russia and for the Ukrainian people.
On the subject of humanitarian relief in neighbouring countries, we have sent teams to support Poland and Slovakia. We have launched our campaign, and we will launch a further public appeal to secure further humanitarian donations. In fact, I am due to meet my Polish counterpart in Geneva tomorrow, and we will be working very closely with our allies in eastern Europe to support the people of Ukraine.
International sanctions now include Russia’s civilian aircraft fleet. The UK has a part to play in their enforcement because, as of yesterday, 713 leased Russian aircraft are registered in Bermuda, a British overseas territory. For far too long, weak UK regulation of Londongrad and tax haven overseas territories has enabled Putin’s regime. What discussions has the right hon. Lady had with the British overseas territories to ensure the immediate and effective implementation of UK sanctions against Russia?
Like the right hon. Lady, I welcome BP’s divestment. We are working closely with the overseas territories to make sure that Putin’s oligarchs have nowhere to hide.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the sanctions regime must stay in place until every inch of Ukrainian territory is back in Ukraine’s control, including Crimea?
Many of my constituents are affected by the war in Ukraine. Like me, they recognise the need for the toughest possible sanctions on Russia. The Foreign Secretary’s statement is welcome, but it does not go far enough. What steps is she taking to ensure that sanctions are imposed on the extraction and technology industries?
I announced today that export controls will apply to critical technologies, which will make it much harder to invest in the oil and gas industry, the technology industry and, of course, the military-industrial complex in Russia. The hon. Lady is right that the fundamental issue here is that Putin is reliant on oil and gas revenues, which is where we need to work with our G7 partners. Continental Europe is predominantly dependent on oil, gas and coal from Russia, and we need to help it to reduce that dependency so that Putin has nowhere to source his funds. That is what we are doing through the G7.
As a matter of superior tactics, does my right hon. Friend accept that the right way to deal with a robotic, sneering psychopath firmly in the grip of small-man syndrome is not to impose sanctions in a piecemeal and gradually escalating way but to seek to inflict maximum economic pain at the earliest possible moment?
Yes is the answer, and that is what we are doing; we are pushing as hard as we can for the toughest possible sanctions. This is the biggest package of sanctions the UK has ever put in place in our history, and we want to do even more and we want to push it with our allies. Together with the G7, we represent half the global economy, and that is what will really shift Putin’s behaviour. That is what will really degrade the Russian economy and stop him being able to fund his war machine.
Listening to the right hon. Lady’s comments, I am not entirely sure yet what the hold-up is with clarifying the plans to sanction Russia’s political ruling class—members of the Duma, Senate and presidential council; the top echelons of the security and defence services; and public television employees. Is she able to set out for us a little more about how soon we might see that happen, given the need for action to be swift, decisive and clear?
I assure the hon. Lady that we have a hit list of oligarchs and Duma members—those key personnel we are talking about. We will be announcing those as we build the evidence and case against them, but we need those cases to be legally watertight—that is what is important—so that when we hit them, the hit sticks.
We certainly are committed to using the UK’s oil and gas fields. Energy independence is vital. We also need to invest more in nuclear, which my right hon. Friend the Business Secretary is working on.
May I offer the Secretary of State a little advice, as I have been in the House for quite some time? No one now likes oligarchs, but some important and substantial figures we call oligarchs in London and in this country are very intelligent people who are influential on Putin. Does she agree that she should consult them as a way of getting a voice of experience and reason to Putin, in order that we could get a better, peaceful resolution of this horrible crisis?
Let us be absolutely clear: this is unprovoked aggression by Putin, after months of warning that there would be severe consequences and a long-running conflict. I do not believe that this is somebody who is capable of reason on that level at this stage. We have to be tougher than tough. We have to be tough with our sanctions, and with the military aid that we and our allies are supplying, because it is only strength that Vladimir Putin understands.
The UK and our allies have delivered meaningful economic strikes against Putin, but we now see the encirclement of civilian towns, the illegal and indiscriminate use of cluster weapons, Chechen militia and calls for more indiscriminate attacks. Will my right hon. Friend reassure me that we will maintain maximum pressure, map and record all atrocities for future prosecution and also commit to drawing up plans for what happens if we see the use of incendiary munitions or chemical weapons?
Regrettably, my hon. Friend is right; that is the type of action we are seeing being contemplated. Everybody involved, including Putin’s advisers and generals, should be aware that the International Criminal Court is already looking at this and at potential war crimes being committed, and we are urging a full investigation to take place.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for her statement. She talks about a hit list of oligarchs. She knows as well as I do that some of the individuals on that list are well-known and some are not so well known, but the one thing they all have in common is that they have all supported and continue to support Putin’s regime. Will she tell me about the timescale in dealing with some of these individuals? She says that she wants more evidence, but surely we have the evidence against certain of those individuals. What timescale is she talking about for when we will see lists of these individuals being printed and sanctions taken?
We have announced more than 120 businesses and oligarchs who have already been sanctioned. There is a list that we are working through, and we will be announcing more as soon as the evidence is ready.
May I commend the resolute approach being taken by my right hon. Friend and ask whether she will consider secondary sanctions—sanctions not against Russian entities but against entities in other countries that seek to profit from the gap left in trade—as it is totally unacceptable for others to profiteer from this invasion. The move will also increase the pressure on Russia, as it did successfully on Iran.
I sat on the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill Committee and watched in horror as the right hon. Lady’s party walked away from the opportunity to sanction Russia on the flow of dirty money through the UK. I am sure that, with the benefit of hindsight, she and her party realise what a grave mistake that was. The action that she has announced is welcome, but will she now take action against Scottish limited partnerships, which are having a profound impact on many nations, and the secrecy havens that are the British overseas territories, notably the British Virgins Islands and the Isle of Man? Given her Government’s failure, surely these actions need to come now.
I thank the hon. Lady for her welcome of the economic crime Bill that we will be introducing tomorrow. My right hon. Friend the Business Secretary will be saying more about that in his statement.
Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that the secondary legislation being introduced is now in the Vote Office, or that it will be very soon? Will she also please confirm that, from a practical point of view, the consequences of this legislation will be set out in clear and simple language and in an easily understood way so that the people who are affected by it—British businesses and British individuals—can understand precisely and easily what is happening?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the legislation will be in the Vote Office as soon as possible. It is important that we get it absolutely right. He talks about businesses being affected. There will be advice through the export support service run by the Department for International Trade, making sure that businesses have all the information they need.
Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the Russian people are being consistently lied to by Russian state media about both the scale of Russia’s military action and the resulting loss of life? Does she agree that that makes the role of the BBC World Service and other trusted media all the more important, and will she bear that in mind when considering any calls for taking action against Russian state media in this country?
My right hon. Friend is entirely right. There is, quite simply, a pack of lies being produced on Russian state media. He is also right about the vital importance of the BBC World Service and other services from which the Russian people can hear a more balanced and truthful version of events. He is also right about the consequences and the unintended consequences of preventing channels from operating in the UK as there could be reciprocation, which would then make it harder for the Russian people to hear the truth.
I have been overwhelmed by messages from constituents who are horrified by Russia’s action in Ukraine. This morning I visited Lewisham Polish Centre, which is doing brilliant work co-ordinating the local relief effort for those fleeing the country. What everyone I have heard from has asked for, however, is an assurance that we are putting forward the strongest possible package of sanctions, providing humanitarian relief for refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries and offering comprehensive safe sanctuary routes to the UK. May I press the Foreign Secretary to give us those reassurances today?
I can reassure the hon. Lady that we are doing all of those things. The sanctions that we currently have in place on Russia are the toughest, in terms of the size of the package, that the UK has put on any country in our entire history. Importantly, however, we are doing more; we are working with our allies to do more every day.
My constituents cannot understand why we still allow Russian state-owned oil tankers to use UK ports. The Russian state-owned oil tanker NS Century is currently at the Finnart oil terminal on Loch Long, a port adjacent to Coulport, which is a home to the UK’s nuclear arsenal. Why, when we are imposing such harsh economic sanctions on the Kremlin, are we continuing to allow Russian state-owned oil tankers to go freely about their business, particularly so close to this most sensitive military installation?
I do not understand why Abramovich and Usmanov have still not been included on the sanction list. I do not really understand why the Prime Minister said last Thursday that we were not going to engage in cultural or sporting boycotts, because we certainly should—we should throw every single thing we have at the Russians. Finally, I do not understand why the Prime Minister also said last Thursday that we will not be sending any Russian diplomats back. Surely we should at least be cutting the Russian embassy here by a half or three quarters, if not deciding that the ambassador, who has lied through his teeth to this House, should go back home.
As I said earlier, we have a hit list of oligarchs that we are working through. My right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary is taking a very tough line on cultural activities, and we have seen a number of sporting events already cancelled.
This is an incredibly tough time for the people of Ukraine, but it is also an incredibly nervous time for the people of the three Baltic states, who must undoubtedly feel that they are at risk. These are good friends of the United Kingdom and people who have had good relations with hon. Members across this House. Will my right hon. Friend join me in sending them a message that we are on their side, and will she do everything she can to ensure that we stand firmly alongside the Baltics in these nervous times?
My right hon. Friend is correct. We know that Putin does not just want to take over Ukraine and restore Russian hegemony over it; he wants to turn the clock back to the mid-1990s, when vast swathes of eastern Europe were under Russian control. That is one of the many reasons why it is so important that his ambitions stop in Ukraine. It is why we are not only supporting the Ukrainians but increasing our strength on the eastern flank. We have doubled the number of troops in Estonia and our allies are also stepping up to support the Baltic states, who are vital allies of the United Kingdom.
I welcome the sanctions that the Foreign Secretary has set out and her words about getting Putin’s dirty money out of UK finance, but can we also get it out of UK politics? Would she support the Conservative party’s handing back its £2 million from Russian oligarchs?
There is a big difference between Russian people and supporters of the Putin regime. It is important that we do not tar every single Russian, many of whom have gained British citizenship and are part of our political process, with the same brush.
Hundreds of people rallied at Bolton town hall on Saturday. We have one of the most established Ukrainian diaspora communities in the UK outside London. Will the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office agree to meet the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain to discuss the UK’s resolve for their friends and family? We are with them, and freedom will prevail.
The House should commend the Foreign Secretary’s statement, but does she agree that with any sanctions regime it is the detail that ensures we can police it? In that light, will she look into the case of the plane of Mikhail Gutseriev, a friend of Putin who is already sanctioned under Belarus sanctions? The plane itself was sanctioned by the Foreign Secretary’s predecessor, but, I am told, landed twice at Luton airport. That cannot be right.
I warmly welcome the leadership that the UK has shown in developing intranational sanctions, but will my right hon. Friend think about going a step further? At the moment, we are freezing the assets of those sanctioned. Would she consider putting a charge on to those assets, monetising the charge, and using the money raised to pay for the support of refugees in eastern Europe and ultimately to rebuild Ukraine?
I thank my hon. Friend for her very innovative idea and I will certainly have a look at it.
Will the Government be looking to address the fact that cryptocurrency may be utilised to try to mitigate the impact of some of the sanctions imposed? The all-party parliamentary group on crypto and digital assets, which I chair, is very keen to play a responsible role and support the Government in moving forward in that realm.
We have worked very closely with the Treasury on this package of sanctions, and we are certainly looking at tackling every possible route that could be used to undermine the sanctions, one of which is cryptocurrency.
The rhetoric and the statements coming out of the Kremlin this week would appear to indicate that the invasion is not going to plan from the Russian perspective. Could my right hon. Friend please convince the House that the UK, the US and all our allies will not blink when it comes to the global imperative to eject Russian forces from Ukraine, and of the need to ensure that Ukraine is restored as quickly as possible to a free, democratic and proud nation?
I am very clear that there is a tough road ahead. We are with the Ukrainian people. We know that this could last for some time. At yesterday’s meeting of G7 Foreign Ministers we were clear that this tough package of sanctions would increase. We will be doing more over the coming days and weeks. We will continue to put pressure on the Kremlin, and continue to supply defensive weaponry into Ukraine to support its people in their just cause of pursuing self-determination and sovereignty.
Like Members across this House, I have been contacted by Vauxhall residents who want to express their solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Yesterday I attended a Racial Justice Sunday mass at the Church of the Holy Spirit, where a number of constituents raised with me the reports, which the Secretary of State may have seen, of African migrants in Ukraine trying to flee and being discriminated against. She mentioned that she will be meeting her Polish counterpart in the coming few days. Will she please raise the issue of those migrants in her discussions?
I thank my right hon. Friend, who over the past few weeks has worked tirelessly along with the Prime Minister to do all they can to help to stop the regime of Putin, particularly through sanctions. Does she agree, though, that it is vital that we continue to work to plug the holes in our sanctions regime that allow Putin to ship oil from this country? Is there anything legally we can do to stop the ship that is currently in Orkney waiting to ship oil?
I am looking very closely at this with my colleague the Transport Secretary to get it addressed as soon as possible.
I have to tell the Foreign Secretary that time is not on her side. The NS Challenger is due to berth at 6 am on Wednesday. In the past hour the Secretary of State for Transport has written to all UK ports requesting them not to grant access to Russian vessels. That is a very welcome move, but the House will have noticed that he used the word “request” rather than “instruct”. Can the Foreign Secretary tell me now, or get me early information, that if the terminal operators at Flotta in Orkney refuse to berth the NS Challenger they will not be left financially exposed as a result?
I am looking at this issue urgently with the Transport Secretary and I will get back to the right hon. Gentleman with that information.
When parliamentarians in this place see our counterparts in Ukraine taking up arms to defend their country, it is really sobering. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is vital that we send the united and clear message that we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes, even if that is for the long haul, and that this is a war that Putin cannot win?
We have seen the acts of incredible bravery from the Ukrainian population and Ukrainian politicians, including President Zelensky, who has led from the front. It is absolutely inspiring. Our message across the House today should be that however long it takes, however difficult it is and whatever difficulties we have economically, they cannot compare to the sheer hell that the people of Ukraine are going through. We will be with them through thick and thin, until Putin loses and until the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine are restored.
The whole House will welcome the Foreign Secretary’s ambition this afternoon, but can we speed up the process of hitting the people on the hit list? There are 23 people on the EU sanctions list who are not on the UK sanctions list as of this morning. The ban on trading in state bonds is in place in Europe, but not in the UK. The ban on import and export from breakaway regions is in place in Europe, but not in the UK. The asset freeze and travel ban on Duma members is in place in Europe, but not in the UK. The asset freeze and travel bans in place in Europe number 22, but there are just eight in the UK announced in the past few days. What further power and resources does the Foreign Secretary need for us to catch up with our American and European allies?
We are leading from the front. For example, we are banning clearing from Sberbank, which the EU is not doing at the moment. We are freezing more bank assets. We have advocated the SWIFT ban, and we want to get all our allies to agree to a SWIFT ban, but this is not a competition between us and our allies; this is a concerted endeavour, where all of us are doing all we can as quickly as we can to show unity and to deliver a massive hit to the Russian economy. The House will have seen the drop in the rouble today, and the impact that this unity is having. I strongly encourage colleagues across the House to support our package, which is unprecedented in United Kingdom history, and to put pressure on more countries to join us, but there are areas where we are going a lot further than our allies. There are some areas where they have gone further than us. We need to continue to make progress together. That is what sends a strong message to Putin.
I pay tribute to the bravery of the Ukrainian people. Change often begins at home, and in this particular case, Alexei Navalny, the leader of the opposition, is currently incarcerated in prison in Russia. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that there should be stronger calls for him to be released, so that democracy can truly flourish in Russia once again?
My hon. Friend is correct about Navalny; he ought to be released. We have seen a terrible suppression of democracy, and we have also seen a terrible suppression of information in Russia, but despite that, we are seeing people in Russia come out on the streets, and we are seeing public figures speak out against the regime. That takes incredible bravery, and I congratulate them. I am humbled by the people in Russia who are prepared to risk their lives to stand up for freedom.
Following on from that, we know how ruthless Putin can be when it comes to internal opposition. Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the murder of Boris Nemtsov, Navalny is in prison, and I went out for the trial of Pussy Riot some years ago. What are we doing to offer support to people who will come under increased repression in Russia? We may not be able to directly support them, but what are we doing to try to bolster their courage and ensure they keep up the opposition to Putin?
We have always worked to support those who speak out in favour of free speech, free media and democracy in Russia, and we continue to do that. We congratulate those who are prepared to go out and protest against this regime’s appalling actions. Our concerns are not with the Russian people; our concerns are with Vladimir Putin and his regime.
I warmly welcome the leadership shown and the progress made by the Foreign Secretary and the Government with partners on intensifying economic sanctions. The announcements from Switzerland and Singapore were particularly important. What more does she think that we can do to persuade the United Arab Emirates to stand up more strongly for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity against unwarranted aggression?
I have had a phone call with my UAE counterpart to make exactly those points. Every country around the world should be aware that if this is allowed to happen—if a bigger and mightier country is allowed to invade a sovereign democracy with impunity—it could happen anywhere. This is about Ukraine, its sovereignty and democracy, and it is about the security of Europe, but it is also about global security and global rules. That is why every single country, including non-democracies, should care about ensuring that Putin loses in Ukraine.
I am pleased that the Foreign Secretary has urged Russia to enable safe passage for civilians to flee the violence, but does she recognise that her Government have to do far more to offer sanctuary to those fleeing? Limiting that to immediate family members is simply not good enough. The elderly grandmother of my constituent has been granted a UK visa, but has been told that she has to travel 300 miles from Kyiv to Lviv to get it stamped in her passport. I raised that with the Foreign Secretary last week, who told me to contact the Home Office, which I have to no avail. Since it relates to the operation of the embassy, can she help? Can she assure us that it will not be a repeat of the Afghanistan crisis where hon. Members were bounced between the Home Office and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office with very little success while our constituents suffered?
I realised that the Government really understood the nature of sanctioning oligarchs when the sanctions on Aeroflot were extended to private jets. In that vein, will my right hon. Friend consider banning insurance for Russian yachts and jets? It would have a worldwide application and make life a lot tougher for those concerned.
I welcome what the Foreign Secretary said about banning Russian airlines and Russian ships from docking at our ports, but yesterday afternoon, a Russian-owned and Russian-crewed ship headed from Inverness to the Humber to dock. I know she has made it clear that she is in discussions with the Transport Secretary, but can she give some indication of when we will have sanctions to stop that happening? There was a huge amount of local opposition in the Humber to that ship.
The local opposition is right and we are working as fast as we can to deal with the issue.
I commend my right hon. Friend and her team for all their amazing work in the face of this appalling invasion. Does she agree that the best way to combat the worrying resurgence of Russia and China, and to reassure other countries, is to invest in not only our defence but our diplomatic reach around the world so that we can spread our values of democracy and freedom and proclaim them even more loudly?
Yes, that sounds like a petition to the Chancellor about the Foreign Office’s budget, which I wholeheartedly agree with and support. My hon. Friend is right that this horrific invasion is a massive wake-up call to the west about our defence and the need to invest in NATO. I am pleased to see Germany committing 2% of its GDP to NATO. We need everybody to commit to that and we need to look at what more we can do to strengthen NATO, because we have taken European security for granted and we cannot do that any longer.
First, I congratulate the Foreign Secretary on the role that she has played in the collective effort the Government have made in seeking to show President Putin that his actions will not be tolerated. I think the fact that some countries that a week ago were not contemplating strict sanctions are now doing so is an important step. Just on the sanctions, I understand that the Foreign Secretary has to go through the legislative process and do the investigations of the people who will be targeted and so on, but many of them are named in the statement today and many others will guess who they are, so is she not concerned that, where assets are mobile and can be quickly hidden, action will be taken to avoid those sanctions?
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the ones named in the statement are either in our legislation or have already been sanctioned. The point about working with our allies across the world is that these people and organisations will have nowhere to hide.
India is a great friend of the UK and a leading democracy, and Indian communities prosper in democracies around the world, including of course in this country. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is in India’s long-term interests to do everything it possibly can to ensure this invasion fails?
That is absolutely correct. Every sovereign nation that believes in fair play and the rule of law around the world should be doing all it can to stop Putin being successful in Ukraine. That includes India, China and every other country around the world.
As somebody who had a grandparent born and raised in Ukraine, this war does come emotionally quite close to me, as it does to everybody of Ukrainian descent in this country. From the 1990s onwards, British-headquartered legal, finance, audit and risk companies have helped to create the kleptocracy that exists in Russia. Many of them still have huge offices in Moscow, such as KPMG, PwC and Linklaters, and Ernst and Young actually put Rosneft on the London stock exchange. What action is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure British companies withdraw from Russia and withdraw their support from the kleptocracy that exists and is funding the war machine, and to delist some Russian companies on the stock exchange?
We are running through a list, and we have already sanctioned over 120 businesses in Russia and oligarchs. We have prevented the Russian central bank from deploying its international reserves to counteract sanctions. We are freezing bank assets of vast parts of the Russian economy, and we will continue to do more to target individual companies with freezes and sanctions. As I have said, nothing is off the table, and we are working in train with our allies on all of this.
I congratulate the Foreign Secretary and the Government on the swift action they have taken, including the action against the Russian central bank, and I commend her for her work to go further. Frankly, however, is it not desperate and indeed pitiful to try to blame words from Her Majesty’s Government for the outrageous Russian escalation of dangerous rhetoric yesterday, because the truth is that it is imperative for the stability of the international order that Putin fails?
My right hon. Friend is right. The reality is that Putin has made these threats to distract from his unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. We are being targeted because the UK has been leading on measures both to support Ukraine and to degrade the Russian economy, and the Russians do not like it.
Earlier, we unfortunately had an opaque response to my hon. Friend Cat Smith on oligarchs’ financing of the Conservative party, and Ian Blackford has also raised the question of the £2.3 million of donations. Would the Foreign Secretary like to take this opportunity to commit today to giving that money from Russian oligarchs directly to charities that will be supporting Ukrainian refugees—not, I hope, in picking vegetables, but being in this country in safety?
As I have said, we cannot tar every single person of Russian origin with the same brush. We are targeting oligarchs close to Putin without fear or favour and freezing bank assets without fear or favour, and we will continue to do so.
I thank the Foreign Secretary for coming to the House to update Members. I understand that today she has banned travel from the United Kingdom to Russia. Have we also asked British citizens in Russia to return? Will she confirm that nothing is off the table economically, diplomatically or militarily?
We have moved our travel advice on Russia to red, which means that we advise against all travel. That is not the same as a ban; it is ultimately Government advice, but I strongly advise people not to go to Russia. That is very clear. On the wider issue, nothing is off the table on sanctions, and we are absolutely clear about that. We are pushing our G7 allies as hard as we can to get a full ban on SWIFT and on all bank assets, and to reduce dependence on oil and gas, which is ultimately the most important economic lever over Putin.
In the past eight years there has been a war, not just in the past few days. During that time, it has been not just military warfare, but a war of communications known as hybrid warfare. Yesterday, the EU decided to shut down RT and Sputnik. Just as the Foreign Secretary is leading in some areas, will she confirm that she will follow the EU and shut down RT and Sputnik immediately? Yesterday as I was watching it, there was a documentary completely about Nazification in Crimea in 2014. That is wholly untrue, but it is being put on our television screens today.
We are looking at what can be done with RT, but if we ban RT in the United Kingdom, that is likely to lead to channels such as the BBC being banned in Russia, and we want the Russian population to hear the truth about what Vladimir Putin is doing. There is a careful judgment to be made, and that is something the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking at.
The vast majority of Russian people are like us. They want to earn money, provide for their families and be happy, but their President, Mr Putin, has taken them down a very dark path, and the world to the brink. Will my right hon. Friend join me in urging the Russian people, and those in the Kremlin who do not agree with Mr Putin, to do whatever it takes to bring Russia back from the brink and stop Putin?
I completely agree with my hon. Friend that we must do all we can to stiffen the resolve of those in Russia who are disgusted by President Putin’s actions in their name. That is why it is important to reach out through channels such as the BBC, and that we communicate clearly. The Foreign Office recently stood up its information unit, which provides communications to challenge disinformation from the Putin regime.
My constituent’s wife and child are currently fleeing the violence in Ukraine, and they hope to return home. Her sister, who is Ukrainian, and her two children aged 10 and four, are fleeing with them, because the home they had been living in was destroyed by a Russian bomb. Does the Foreign Secretary agree that that is precisely the kind of case where the United Kingdom, which has a long history of compassion and welcome to refugees, should be enabling that family, together, to return here?
It is appalling to hear about the horrific situation that the family of the right hon. Gentleman’s constituent find themselves in, and we must be welcoming to refugees from this appalling, pre-meditated war created by Vladimir Putin. I will take his inquiry to the Home Office and get him a response.
Four years ago an inquiry was announced into the progress of golden visas that had potentially been misallocated. Will the Foreign Secretary confirm that anybody on her list who becomes sanctioned—I commend her on the ever-growing list of oligarchs who she is sanctioning—will have any golden visas that they may have been granted in the past summarily revoked?
The Giorgidze family, the Reckon family and many others in my constituency have family members and loved ones now in Poland or on its border. They want to know what conversations the Foreign Secretary has had with her counterpart in Poland about swift flights to bring those family members to the UK and—perhaps equally importantly—what conversations she has had with the Home Secretary on that matter.
I welcome the additional Government measures announced today, but will the Foreign Secretary recognise and indeed encourage the actions of UK individuals and companies who have chosen to dispose of investments and shareholdings in Russian companies, and not least BP’s disposal of its stake in Rosneft, which will come at a substantial cost to its shareholders?
I welcome the actions by companies who are dissociating themselves from working with the Putin regime, including BP’s divestment.
We have all witnessed the horrifying war crimes taking place against the people of Ukraine. One would have thought, would one not, that there would have been at least some diplomatic expulsions in co-ordination with others as a result of that? However, the Foreign Secretary dodged the question from my good friend Alicia Kearns. Is her Department working on plans should those war crimes get worse and chemical weapons are deployed against the people of Ukraine?
Yes, we are working on that. We are working closely with the International Criminal Court, and the chief prosecutor has already issued a statement about the situation in Ukraine. We are determined that everyone in Russia close to Putin, who is in charge of this appalling invasion, should be aware that they could be prosecuted for war crimes for what they are doing. On diplomatic expulsions, of course we do not rule anything out. We are working closely with our allies.
I very much welcome the Foreign Secretary’s robust statement on further sanctions on Russia and strong support for Ukraine. Deliberate misinformation and propaganda are part of Putin’s toolbox, so does she agree that while we must safeguard and respect free speech, social media companies have a responsibility to ensure that they are not propagating lies and that they must moderate the content on their platforms extremely carefully?
My hon. Friend is right. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking closely at the activities of social media companies.
I am pleased to hear that the Foreign Secretary will not be cowed by letters from oligarchs’ lawyers. She will know that, no matter how distasteful we might find it and how damaging it might be to those law firms’ reputations, even oligarchs are entitled to legal representation because that is part of what makes us a free and democratic society. Does she agree that the best way to deal with these issues is to ensure that the laws are watertight in the first place? Will she assure us that she has got the best, most expert lawyers available to ensure that no loopholes can be exploited?
The Foreign Office is currently full of lawyers working through precisely that point.
I very much welcome the UK’s robust global leadership against Putin’s Russia. The high dependency on Russian energy in parts of Europe has been used by Putin to threaten many of those European countries. What more can the British Government do to help support those countries to reduce that dependency?
I am working closely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on helping those countries reduce their dependence. We are working with the G7 so that, over time, there will be less and less oil, gas and coal imported from Russia so that there will be less money to fund Putin’s war machine.
The public would rightly expect Departments and the Cabinet to be working together at a time like this. The Foreign Secretary said in her statement that “we are also leading on humanitarian support” and yet fleeing Ukrainian citizens seeking refuge in the UK are being denied entrance because of outdated and restrictive immigration rules. Will the Foreign Secretary therefore urge her Cabinet colleagues to follow the EU nations in waiving visa requirements for Ukrainian citizens for three years?
As I said earlier, my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has just announced the new Ukrainian humanitarian route, which responds directly to these needs.
The Foreign Secretary announced the launching of a joint taskforce to hunt down the assets of oligarchs hit by our sanctions. Can she tell us the speed and scale at which that taskforce will be set up, and what conversations have been had with the insurance companies, which presumably have a list of all the assets and names of the individuals?
This really pertains to a number of questions that have been asked. What we are doing in building up our evidence cases about the oligarchs is sharing information with our G7 allies, so we are working together and getting that information quicker. That work is already under way. That taskforce already exists. Of course, alongside the legal services, the public relations services and the accountancy services, we will look at the insurance services that these oligarchs rely on. This is all about being able to do this quicker, because every single country has the same issue. The US takes time to build up cases against oligarchs because generally their organisations are so complex and opaque. The work that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is doing on the Economic Crime Bill will also help to make it easier for us to understand their corporate structures.
I think all of us, particularly those of us who were Members of the House in September 2001, realise that a page has been turned in world history and a new chapter has begun that will resonate not just now but for many years. The important thing is our shared values, and the way that we respond in the months and years to come. On the specifics of the Foreign Secretary’s statement, she said that over 50% of Russian trade is denominated in dollars or sterling, but so that the House can understand the impact of our Government’s actions, how much of Russian trade is denominated in sterling?
I do not have that figure on me, but I can get it to the hon. Gentleman. The point that I was making is that the action that we have taken on clearing is in conjunction with the United States, so between us we are able to cover 50% of that trade.
Can the Foreign Secretary explain why the Russian ambassador to the UK is yet to be dismissed, and will she do all that she can to encourage the Governments of all Western democracies and the wider international community to similarly dismiss their Russian ambassadors in order to further underscore the isolation of Russia under Putin on the international stage?
It is very important in all that we do that we work with allies, and co-ordinated action is vital to send a message to Russia and the rest of the world. As I have said, nothing is off the table.
I listened to the Foreign Secretary correctly detail the importance of avoiding sanctions leakage. She was asked twice in this statement about British overseas territories. I detected a reluctance to go into detail on that. If I was wrong, can she please correct me, and if I was right, can she explain why?
I have been very clear that we will absolutely include overseas territories in all the measures that we are taking.
The sister of my constituent, Mrs Roach from Cwmann, has been travelling across Ukraine with her children for three days in an attempt to get to the Polish border. Based on what was said earlier, because it is not clear to me, will my constituent’s sister and her children qualify as immediate family in order to obtain access to the UK?
The World Health Organisation has warned that oxygen supplies are running dangerously low in Ukraine, and that it is working with international partners to get urgent shipments through Poland. Can the Foreign Secretary confirm what medical aid the UK Government are providing to Ukraine to help it to maintain essential services?