Ukraine

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:13 pm on 28th March 2022.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 5:13 pm, 28th March 2022

I thank the Foreign Secretary for advance sight of her statement, and the continued briefings on Privy Council terms.

It is now more than a month since Vladimir Putin launched his barbaric and illegal invasion, with horrifying results: buildings razed to the ground, maternity hospitals bombed, and the city of Mariupol turned into a living hell. Ukraine is the victim of a bandit regime that is willing to use violence in an attempt to subjugate its neighbour. But 24 February marked not only an attack on the people of Ukraine; it was also an attempt to crush the values of democracy, rule of law and freedom that we all enjoy. There can be no excuses for Putin’s actions, and one day soon I hope he will be held to account for what I consider to be war crimes.

Day by day, it has become clearer that despite Putin’s brutal tactics he is not winning. A month ago, many people gave Ukraine’s resistance little chance. Many expected Russia’s armed forces to sweep into Kyiv in days, frankly, yet still Ukraine’s forces hold firm. Their skill, bravery and resolve has inspired the world. Putin’s invasion may have stalled, but the threat he poses remains. Reports suggest he may be seeking a way out. We want to see an end to the bloodshed, and the restoration of Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty.

I am sure the Foreign Secretary will agree with me that any ceasefire agreement must enjoy the full support of the democratically elected Government of Ukraine and that, if an agreement is reached, there will be no return to the previous status quo in our economic relationship with Russia. Putin’s regime must still pay a long-term cost for its war of aggression. We must decisively end our dependence on fossil fuels and move rapidly towards cheap, home-grown renewables to support our energy sector. We must complete the unfinished task of ending Britain’s role as the hub of dirty money from Russia and elsewhere. As this war remains in the balance, we must do what we can to ensure that we tip it towards Ukraine.

I am pleased that the NATO, EU and G7 summits last week reinforced western unity. It is right that NATO has agreed to bolster the eastern flank, with the approval of four additional battle groups. I welcome the commitment to increase and strengthen capabilities, as well as cyber-security assistance, financial aid and humanitarian aid, but can I ask the Foreign Secretary what is the scale of the UK’s contribution? Last week’s commitment shows NATO’s long-term strategy is quickly evolving. Other European allies who are reviewing defence spending are boosting their armed services. I was in Berlin last week, where our colleagues in Germany have committed to a historic investment in defence. Finland, Sweden and Denmark all announced reviews or extra resources for defence. Does the Foreign Secretary really believe it is right at this time for the UK to cut the Army by 10,000 in the next few years? If not, will she act on Labour’s call to halt those cuts?

It is time, too, for Britain to return to the table when it comes to European security. Will the Foreign Secretary tell the Prime Minister to stop picking petty squabbles with our neighbours on the continent and instead deepen security co-operation that will keep us all safe?

Last week, G7 and EU leaders focused on closing loopholes on existing sanctions rather than imposing new measures. There remain many gaps in the UK’s regime: trusts are not fully covered; many Russian banks are not designated, and ownership thresholds are too high. We need to ensure effective enforcement, including of the overseas territories and Crown dependencies. Can the Foreign Secretary tell us what her Government are doing to close those loopholes and whether she plans to put further sanctions in place?

A month on from this illegal invasion, the world has changed. The unity across this House, this country and the international community must endure. The next few days and weeks will be crucial, and we send all our support to the people of Ukraine. As this war enters a new phase, we must all adapt and hold our nerve. Through the darkness of terror and destruction, Zelensky’s democratic Government remain in control against all the odds. Bravery is shining through.