Ukraine

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:07 pm on 28th March 2022.

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Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss Minister for Women and Equalities, Foreign Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office 5:07 pm, 28th March 2022

With permission, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to update the House, on behalf of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, about the NATO and G7 leaders’ meetings in Brussels last week. Together with our allies, we agreed to keep the pressure up on Putin to end his appalling war in Ukraine through tougher sanctions to debilitate the Russian economy; through supplying weapons to Ukraine and boosting NATO’s eastern flank; through providing humanitarian aid in dealing with the wider consequences of the crisis; and through supporting Ukraine in any negotiations it undertakes.

Strength is the only thing Putin understands. Our sanctions are pushing back the Russian economy by years and we owe it to the brave Ukrainians to keep up our tough approach to get peace. We owe it to ourselves to stand with them for the cause of freedom and democracy in Europe and across the world. It is vital that we step up this pressure. We cannot wait for more appalling atrocities to be committed in Ukraine. We know that the impact of sanctions degrades over time, and that is why we need to act now.

Next week, NATO Foreign Ministers will meet to follow up on the statements of leaders. I will be pressing our allies over the next weeks for all of us to do more. On oil and gas, the UK has already committed to ending imports of Russian oil by the end of this year. We must agree a clear timetable with our partners across the G7 to end dependence on Russian oil and gas permanently. On banks, we have already sanctioned 16 major Russian banks. We have hit Gazprombank and placed a clear prohibition on Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank. We want to see others adopt these sanctions and go further.

On individuals, we have cracked down on oligarchs such as Roman Abramovich. Last week, we sanctioned the despicable Wagner Group of mercenaries. On ports, Britain has banned entry to Russian vessels at all our ports. I will be lobbying our partners across the G7 to join us in stopping Russian ships.

We must maximise the flow of weapons that are being supplied to Ukraine under the United Nations charter of self-defence. The UK was the first European country to start sending lethal aid to Ukraine, and we are doubling our support with a further 6,000 missiles, including next-generation light anti-tank weapons, and Javelin anti-tank weapons. We are equipping our Ukrainian friends with anti-aircraft Starstreak missiles. We are also strengthening NATO’s eastern flank, deploying troops to Bulgaria, and doubling the numbers of troops in Poland and Estonia.

We are co-ordinating deliveries with our allies, and we want others to join us in getting Ukraine what it needs. The UK is providing £220 million in humanitarian support to help the people of Ukraine, from shelters to heaters and medicine. Today we announced our partnership with Australia to fly out more relief, including blankets, cooking equipment and power generators. We are getting supplies directly into Ukraine’s encircled cities, with £2 million in canned food, water, and dried food. As refugees come into countries such as Poland, we are working with the UNHCR so that it is informed about the UK’s Homes for Ukraine scheme. That scheme has already had more than 150,000 applications, thanks to the generosity of the British public.

We know that Putin is not serious about talks. He is still wantonly bombing innocent citizens across Ukraine. That is why we must do more to ensure that he loses and we force him to think again. We must not just stop Putin in Ukraine; we must also look to the long term. We must ensure that any future talks do not end up selling out Ukraine, or repeating the mistakes of the past. We remember the uneasy settlement of 2014, which failed to give Ukraine lasting security. Putin just came back for more. That is why we cannot allow him to win from this appalling aggression, and why this Government are determined that Putin’s regime should be held to account at the International Criminal Court.

We will work to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. We have set up a negotiations unit to ensure that the strongest possible support is available to the Ukrainians, alongside our international partners. We have played a leading role alongside our G7 allies in driving the response to Putin’s war, and I want to ensure that that unity continues. Sanctions were put on by the G7 in unison, and they should not be removed as long as Putin continues with his war and still has troops in Ukraine. That is not all. We must ensure that Putin can never act in this aggressive way again. Any long-term settlement needs to include a clear sanctions snapback that would be triggered automatically by any Russian aggression.

In the aftermath of Putin’s war, Ukraine will need our help to build back. In these exceptional circumstances, we have a duty to step up with a new reconstruction plan for rebuilding Ukraine. We will work with the international community to do that. At this defining moment, the free world has shown a united response. Putin is not making the progress he craves, and he is still not serious about talks. President Zelensky and the Ukrainian people know that everybody in the United Kingdom stands firm with them. We were the first European country to recognise Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union. Thirty years on, we are the first to strengthen its defences against Putin’s invasion, and lead the way in our support.[This section has been corrected on 29 March 2022, column 4MC — read correction] Over the next week, I will be working to drive forward progress in unison with our allies. Together, we can secure a lasting peace that restores Ukraine’s sovereignty. Together, we can ensure that Putin fails and Ukraine prevails. I commend this statement to the House.