Ukraine - Statement

– in the House of Lords at 2:30 pm on 21 December 2022.

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The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Tuesday 20 December.

“With permission, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on Ukraine. I am grateful for the leeway that Mr Speaker has given me for a slightly longer Statement than normal; I thought it important to give as much information as possible to the House at the close of this year.

Today marks the 300th day of what was supposed to be a three-day operation by Russia. As this calendar year draws to a close, I want to update the House on the illegal, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the brave defence of the Ukrainian people. Since it began its offensive on 24 February, Russia has failed to achieve its strategic objectives. Not one single senior operational commander in place on 24 February is in charge now. Russia has lost significant numbers of generals and commanding officers. Rumours of General Gerasimov’s dismissal persist, as Putin deflects responsibility for continued military failure in Ukraine, high fatality rates and increasing public dissatisfaction with mobilisation.

More than 100,000 Russians are dead, injured or have deserted. Russian capability has been severely hampered by the destruction of more than 4,500 armoured and protected vehicles, as well as more than 140 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft, and hundreds of other artillery pieces.

The Russian battalion tactical group concept—for a decade the pride of its military doctrine—has not stood up to Ukrainian resistance. Russia’s deployed land forces’ combat effectiveness has dropped by more than 50%. The Russian air force is conducting tens of missions a day, as opposed to 300 a day back in March. Russia’s much-vaunted Black Sea fleet is little more than a coastal defence flotilla. Kremlin-paid mercenaries are faring no better. Hundreds were recently killed by a strike on a headquarters used by the paramilitary Wagner Group in the Luhansk region.

Behind the scenes, international sanctions, including independently applied UK sanctions, have handicapped the Kremlin’s defence industry. Russia is running out of stockpiles and has expended a large proportion of its SS-26 Iskander short-range ballistic missiles. It is now resorting to stripping jetliners for spare parts. Its inability to operate independently is underscored by its reliance on Iran’s Shahed drones.

President Putin’s failure to marshal recruits and machinery is translating to battlefield defeats. At the maximum point of its advance, in March, Russia occupied around 27% of Ukrainian territory. Ukraine has since liberated around 54% of the territory taken since February. Russia now controls only around 18% of internationally recognised areas of Ukraine. Last Monday, the Kremlin cancelled its annual press conference for the first time in a decade.

Almost a year on, the conflict now resembles the attritional battles of World War I. The Russian army is largely fixed in place, not just by Ukrainian firepower but by its own creaking logistics system and barely trained troops. Soldiers occupy networks of waterlogged trenches and a vast front line stretches for 1,200 kilometres —the distance from London to Vienna. Despite intense fighting in the Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions, Russia can barely generate a fighting force capable of retaking lost areas, let alone make significant operational advances.

Russian public opinion is starting to turn. Data reportedly collected by Russia’s Federal Protective Service indicated that 55% of Russians now favour peace talks with Ukraine, with only 25% claiming to support the war’s continuation. In April, the latter figure was around 80%.

Alongside Russia’s litany of failure is an expanding rap sheet of reported war crimes. According to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, since 24 February some 6,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed and nearly 10,000 injured. Every day more allegations emerge of rape, arbitrary detentions, torture, ill treatment, deaths in custody and summary executions. Unrecorded group burial sites have been discovered in former occupied areas such as Mariupol, Bucha and Izyum. Industrial facilities such as the Azovstal steelworks and the Azot chemical plant have been targeted, risking the release of toxic industrial chemicals, and the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant—the largest in Europe—has been indiscriminately shelled. At the start of the invasion, Russia planned “kill lists” of civic leaders, show trials and sham referendums. Unfortunately for it, the international community has not been fooled by such tricks.

Russian soldiers recently exhumed the bones of Prince Potemkin, the legendary confidant of Catherine the Great. They have also looted priceless artefacts from museums and, according to UNESCO, either partially or completely destroyed more than 200 Ukrainian cultural sites. More sinister still is the splitting up of families through forced relocation or “filtration” into temporarily occupied territories or Russia itself. Numerous open-source reports show that this morally bankrupt activity is not the work of rogue units or corrupt individuals; it is systemic.

Today, Russia is weaponising winter, with ongoing and widespread missile strikes targeted at Ukraine’s energy and water infrastructure. More than 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been struck. However, Ukraine’s resilience has meant that a significant proportion is back up and running. Such behaviour is a flagrant breach of international humanitarian law and the law of armed conflict. We are doing everything we can to support the Ukrainian authorities and the International Criminal Court as they investigate.

At the beginning of this year, my aim was to help Ukraine resist and to give its citizens hope that the Europe they aspire to be part of would support them in their hour of need. The international community has not disappointed. As Russia has changed its tactics throughout the conflict, so we in the United Kingdom have changed the type and level of our support. For example, Britain’s expertise and advice is helping Ukraine better co-ordinate and synchronise its air defence. Our advice helps Ukraine target incoming Russian or Iranian kamikaze drones. We always make sure that our support is calibrated to avoid escalation. The House should be under no illusion that it is Russia that is escalating its attacks on Ukraine, and I have made that point clear to my counterpart Minister Shoigu in Moscow.

I wish I could tell the House that, after 300 days of almost daily defeats, Russia has recognised its folly. Sadly, it has not. There is no let-up for the Ukrainians and, as can be seen by the weaponisation of energy, there is no let-up from Putin’s war for us here in the United Kingdom or across Europe. Therefore, Ukraine will require our continued support in 2023, building on our lethal aid, training, humanitarian support and international co-ordination.

That is why, as the temperature drops further in Ukraine, the UK is doing what it can to help Ukrainians endure the harsh winter. The UK has donated 900 generators to Ukraine, and it has sent approximately 15,000 extreme cold weather kits to the Ukrainian armed forces, including cold weather clothing, heavy duty sleeping bags and insulated tents. We anticipate that a further 10,000 cold weather kits will be delivered by Christmas. Across the international community, around 1.23 million winter kit items have been deployed to Ukraine.

Alongside our global partners, we have implemented the most severe package of sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. Simultaneously, we have galvanised efforts to raise funds to support Ukraine. I chaired my first Ukraine donor conference on 25 February and have attended three since then. The UK has been instrumental, too, in bringing our northern European neighbours together in solidarity under the auspices of the Joint Expeditionary Force, whose unity was apparent at its meeting yesterday in Riga. Together, this has ensured a steady supply of lethal and non-lethal aid to sustain Ukrainian resistance.

As the threats to European security rise, the UK has also been leading efforts to shore up regional security, deploying a number of units across the continent. President Putin wanted to see a weaker NATO. NATO will now be even stronger with Finland and Sweden’s decision to accede to the alliance. As Secretary of State, I do all I can to make sure that the final hurdles are removed to allow their swift entry into the alliance.

Although our populations continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis, the global community must hold its course on Ukraine. The price of Putin’s success is one none of us can afford. We must ensure that Russia maintains its commitment to the Black Sea initiative, which has so far transported 14.3 million tonnes of grain in more than 500 outgoing voyages; we must stop its reckless shelling of nuclear facilities; and we must hold its enablers to account. Iran has become one of Russia’s top military backers. In return for Iran’s supply of more than 300 kamikaze drones, Russia intends to provide it with advanced military components, undermining both Middle East and international security. We must expose that deal—in fact, I have just done so.

Make no mistake: the UK’s assistance to Ukraine will remain unwavering. I am grateful to the Prime Minister for his continuing support. We have already committed to match or exceed the £2.3 billion in military aid we have spent in the last year. We have secured a major deal to keep up the ongoing supply of artillery rounds and will continue refreshing Ukraine’s stocks of air defence and other missiles, as well as our own. Where we have equipment to gift, we will replace from our own stocks; where we have no more to gift, we shall purchase alongside our allies. The UK has been joined in its huge level of support by the US, as well as by EU members—Poland, Slovakia and the Baltic states in particular.

We are determined to maintain and sustain the Ukraine equipment pipeline for the longer term. Our international fund, which we co-chair with Denmark, has to date received pledges worth half a billion pounds, and it has just concluded its first round of bids for capabilities that we plan to rapidly procure for Ukraine in the new year.

Our Armed Forces are doing everything possible to develop the battle skills of Ukrainian men and women, having put almost 10,000 through their paces in the UK in 2022. My ambition is for our Armed Forces, alongside our allies, to train at least double that number in 2023. I want to place on record my thanks to Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, New Zealand, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Australia for their contributions of troops to join that endeavour, training Ukrainian troops here in the United Kingdom. Finally, we must help Ukraine rebuild. The reconstruction conference that we will host next year will accelerate that process.

Throughout this year, I have kept open communication channels with my opposite number, Defence Minister Shoigu, in order to avoid miscalculations and reduce the risk of escalation. Through written correspondence and a phone call on 23 October, I have repeatedly stressed that Russia must stop targeting civilians, end its invasion, and withdraw its forces from Ukraine.

This year, the Ukrainians have been fighting not only for their freedoms but for ours. We must be clear that three days, or even 300 days, is not the maximum attention span of the international community. The UK and the international community’s dedication to help Ukraine is solid and enduring, and will not let up through 2023 and beyond. We cannot stand by while Russia sends waves of drones to escalate its attack on innocent civilians.

Just as the UK’s support has evolved as the conflict has unfolded, we are doing so again now in this latest phase of Russian brutality by developing options to respond in a calibrated and determined manner should the escalation continue. If the Kremlin persists in its disregard for human rights and the Geneva conventions, we must insist on Ukraine’s right to self-defence and the protection of civilians. The next year will be critical for all of us who believe in standing up for freedom, international law and human rights. I commend this Statement to the House.”

Photo of Lord Coaker Lord Coaker Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Opposition Whip (Lords) 2:40, 21 December 2022

My Lords, I start, at the end of this year, by thanking the Minister for her very helpful and co-operative approach in keeping me and this Chamber up to date with respect to Ukraine over the last 300 days. It has been very welcome. I also make the usual but nonetheless extremely important restatement of our support for the Government’s actions with respect to Ukraine. As we have stated many times, the fight for freedom, democracy and the rule of law remain as important now, 300 days after Russia’s illegal invasion, as they were on day one. President Putin has strengthened the resolve of NATO and been surprised by the co-operation that is so evident, again demonstrated by today’s visit to the White House of President Zelensky. The Ukrainian Government and their people should know that our resolve in this country remains strong.

I would like to ask the Minister a number of questions which arise from the Statement and the Government’s actions. First, can we expect the full 2023 action plan for Ukraine that the Defence Secretary promised four months ago, and which is not yet published? When will it be published?

It is reported again that Russia is seeking to boost and extend its military links with Iran: the Defence Secretary says that Russia intends to supply military technology to Iran in return for it supplying drones to Russia. Can the Minister tell us what action the Government are taking on this with respect to Iran? The Defence Secretary says that the West must hold Russia’s enablers to account. How do the Government actually intend to hold Russia’s enablers to account—in this respect, Iran? Does it not also cause worries for that region around Iran as well, and show that the Ukrainian conflict has far-reaching consequences not only for Europe but beyond it?

In the face of the increasing support of drones being provided to Russia by Iran, what additional support are we providing to Ukraine to defend itself? Can the Minister update us on the latest situation with respect to the provision of military equipment to Ukraine by us and our allies? Are there any shortages, and are we maintaining our own stockpiles in the face of this additional demand?

Alongside the discussion around Ukraine, we read that the Prime Minister has ordered a review of UK spending in Ukraine, and of our support. Can the Minister explain what this actually means, given that Downing Street also said that it involved an audit of progress? Did the Ministry of Defence know that that statement was coming? Was there proper consultation about it and was it fully agreed?

The Ukrainian Government have also said that they require support, such as with energy, to help them through the winter in the face of the Russian attacks on their energy supply. How are we supporting civil society through such shortages, as the maintenance of the health and security of the civilian population in Ukraine is crucial to their own war effort? Given the reports in the media that Royal Marines have also been deployed in Ukraine—reports based on briefings from senior Royal Marine commanders—and particularly given that the missions carried

“a high level of political and military risk” is there anything further the Minister can say on that?

As London is to join other cities in darkening Christmas lights for Ukraine, in a show of solidarity with the millions of Ukrainians without power this winter, will the Minister join me in praising the British public for their support for the people of Ukraine? There is not only Homes for Ukraine, but the many fundraisers and expressions of support. This support is also essential; it shows the understanding that this has been a long struggle and is likely to continue for some time yet. The British public, in the face of their own difficulties, deserve much praise for understanding that some face even more difficulty. Was not the Defence Secretary right to say in his Statement that 300 days

“is not the maximum attention span of the international community”?

It has to be the case that our dedication to help Ukraine is enduring. It will not, and must not, let up through 2023 and beyond.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, as so often, I am very happy to associate myself with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Coaker. However, unlike yesterday in the questions on the Statement on the Afghanistan inquiry, I have a whole series of additional questions to put to the Minister. These are intended not to undermine anything that the noble Lord said but simply to press a little further.

Clearly, we must all salute the resilience of Ukraine, President Zelensky, First Lady Zelenska and the Ukrainian people, who have done so much to stand up not just for their own liberty and freedom but for freedom more widely, as the Secretary of State said yesterday in another place. It is indeed right that the United Kingdom and our NATO allies have been supporting Ukraine. I thought the words of the Secretary of State yesterday were very well measured, that

“our support is calibrated to avoid escalation”,

because that is absolutely vital. There is a very real danger, as I thought the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, touched on, that this conflict could become much wider. Clearly NATO countries want to support Ukraine, but it is Ukraine’s war. It is right that we support by training Ukrainian service personnel and providing equipment, but we need to avoid escalation.

To press a little further, I wonder whether the Minister could clarify what work is being done to ensure that we have adequate contacts with the supply chains and those supplying military hardware to ensure that, down the line, there will be sufficient capabilities for His Majesty’s Armed Forces. We have raised these issues many times over the last 300 days, but the longer the conflict goes on the more important it is to ensure that there will be no difficulties with capabilities, not just in supporting Ukraine but for the United Kingdom Armed Forces themselves.

In addition to the question of capabilities, there is another. It is welcome to know, as everyone is aware, that the Royal Navy has been in the Black Sea and that the Army has been in various parts supporting the Joint Expeditionary Force in Eastern Europe. Can the Minister tell us what assessment has been made of the impact on our Armed Forces of all the requirements that are being put on them? Yesterday, we talked about the need for our Armed Forces personnel to stand in to replace key workers during the strikes. Again and again, we are calling on our Armed Forces. Does the Minister think we are giving them sufficient support? Should we be thinking about reversing the cuts to the Army?

Beyond that, there are clearly questions about what Russia has been doing and the activities that it has perpetrated—war crimes, alleged atrocities of rape, and many other atrocities that have been put forward. In particular, there appear to be many Ukrainians whose bodies cannot be identified. Last month I was in the Falkland Islands, visiting on the 40th anniversary of the liberation. There, of course, we have attempted to put graves for Argentinian soldiers, who were not easy to identify. That was by way of reconciliation, in some ways.

Last year, I was in Bosnia where there are mothers still weeping because the dismembered bodies of their dead children are scattered. In the light of what we are seeing in Russia, will the Minister say whether the Government are ready to consider supporting the idea of some sort of tribunal on war crimes perpetrated by Russia in Ukraine?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and the noble Baroness, Lady Smith, for their introductory remarks. Not for the first time, I express my appreciation in this Chamber for the unanimity of support for how we are responding to this illegal war being waged by President Putin. I have said before, and I repeat, that that political unanimity has a real impact, and I think it has made Russians realise that something very bad is happening in their name. I was interested in looking at my right honourable friend the Secretary of State’s Statement in the other place. He mentioned how public opinion in Russia seems to be changing. That is to be welcomed. Now there is evidence that a majority of the population is actually unhappy about this war and far from convinced that it is either justified or worth while. I think that the role that we play in this country through our political and democratic processes by demonstrating that unanimity—or as the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, phrased it in word that does not often escape my lips—solidarity of approach is extremely important. It is part of the powerful response which this country is giving and, of course, that response has been supported and shared by our allies and partners.

On the noble Lord’s specific question about the action plan, it has not been forgotten about; it is a fairly dynamic piece of work, as the noble Lord will appreciate. There is a fluid situation in Ukraine. We regularly have to assess from our discourse with the Ukrainian Government, the intelligence we get from the Ukrainian armed forces and our own intelligence assessment how we should be approaching next year. To put this beyond any shadow of doubt, since the noble Lord raised my right honourable friend the Prime Minister using the word “review”, our resolve to support Ukraine in defending itself is absolutely unwavering. The Prime Minister is completely shoulder to shoulder with that resolve. When there is any endeavour in which the United Kingdom Government are engaged, the Prime Minister naturally wants to know how it is all going. That is a very natural inquiry, but that is not in some way to diminish or begin to weaken our support. We are very clear about what we are doing and why we are doing it.

That leads me on to the next point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, which is this troubling intelligence that Russia is supplying technology to Iran. That is a profoundly undesirable development, and the noble Lord is quite correct that that of course has potential consequences for the broader region in the Middle East. As to how we deal with that, we consult allies and use whatever forum we have available, whether that is NATO or the UN, to highlight the concerns, to make them as public as possible and to consider collectively whether there is anything more we can do whether by the application of sanctions or other forms of restriction. The noble Lord will be aware that sanctions are beginning to bite hard and there is now evidence that the Russian military action is being degraded and that some of the weapons manufacturers in Russia have had to cease activity, all of which is evidence that the sanctions tourniquet is beginning to tighten around the Russian economy.

On our general support for Ukraine, as the noble Lord is aware, we have provided a variety of forms of equipment, both lethal and non-lethal. We have provided short and long-range air defence systems and missiles to help Ukraine protect its critical national infrastructure. These include Stormer vehicles fitted with Starstreak missiles, advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles—AMRAAM—and multiple-launch rocket systems which can strike targets up to 80 kilometres away. We have augmented that with armoured vehicles, anti-tank missiles, Brimstone missiles, anti-structure munitions and 4.5 million tonnes of plastic explosives—I will check that figure, because I think something is missing from the briefing pack—so we have been doing a great deal. I think noble Lords get the picture. We are doing a lot, and propose to continue doing a lot, to support the Ukrainians. We make these judgments by assessing what we hear from them, and then through the international donation co-ordination centre, which is led by the UK, we work out who is giving what and how quickly we can get it to them, and try to avoid any conflicting issues of duplication or replication.

The noble Lord raised the issue of replenishments; I can reassure him that we keep a close eye on this. We remain fully engaged with industry, allies and partners to ensure both the continuation of supply to Ukraine and that all equipment and munitions granted in kind from UK stocks are replaced as expeditiously as possible. We are working with NATO partners to strengthen industrial capacity within the alliance, both for now and for the future. We have been able to place contracts in respect of replenishing Starstreak lightweight multirole missiles and the next-generation light anti-tank weapons, NLAWs. They are currently being built. We anticipate further contracts being placed in the course of next year. The overriding consideration is that we always have to balance what we give with having enough ourselves to address issues of national security.

On the noble Lord’s reference to the Royal Marines, as my right honourable friend made clear in the other place, there has been a small cohort of Royal Marines but they have been there to protect the embassy. They are there not in any pugilistic, offensive capacity but simply to protect our diplomatic presence, which is a natural and understandable thing to want to do.

On humanitarian aid, yes, we have been paying close attention to what we can do to support Ukraine in the bombardment it is being subjected to. We have released £5 million of funding for repairs and replacement equipment in response to the Ukrainian Energy Minister’s list of needs. In October, the UK signed a €97.3 million European Bank for Reconstruction and Development guarantee for the Ukrainian electricity distributor. We will continue to look at what we can do to support Ukraine in energy. As previously indicated, we have also sent portable generators to support access to power for essential services, including hospitals and shelters. In November, the Foreign Secretary signed a memorandum of understanding with the energy community to release £10 million to repair Ukraine’s energy grid. That is on top of the generators already supplied.

The final point that the noble Lord made very eloquently was in relation to the UK response to all this. I absolutely agree with him that that response has been magnificent; it manifests in so many ways. No doubt he, like me, hears uplifting descriptions of how families have been taken in and made to feel welcome and are making a contribution to life in the UK. He is absolutely correct that the attention span is not transient or finite; it is there for as long as we need it to be there to see off this threat.

The noble Baroness, Lady Smith, is quite right: we ensure that we calibrate support to avoid escalation. I have explained about replenishment and capability; that is being addressed. She raised the impact on our Armed Forces and, yes, we ask a lot of them. Taking regulars and reserves, we have a current cohort somewhere well over the 100,000 mark. Of those, as I described I think yesterday—I am losing track of the days—a relatively small proportion are deployed to MACA tests, but obviously we have presences in the Baltic and Cyprus and a reducing presence in Africa. We are very clear about the need to be vigilant as to what we ask our Armed Forces to do and to ensure we are attentive to their welfare and well-being.

The final point the noble Baroness raised was on Russia’s activity and war crimes. I reassure her that we have been very active on that issue, working with the International Criminal Court and doing our best to provide expertise to the court to assist it in the work it needs to do. This is a very important area and Russia, and the agents and operators acting on its behalf, must understand that the tap on the shoulder will arrive one day. Our role is to ensure that the International Criminal Court, with the help of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies, is gathering and preserving the evidence it needs to consider legal charges and, subsequently, successful prosecutions and convictions.

Photo of Viscount Stansgate Viscount Stansgate Labour 3:00, 21 December 2022

My Lords, it is sadly appropriate that the final Statement taken in the House this year is on Ukraine. I associate myself with all the comments made by my noble friend Lord Coaker from the Front Bench. When it comes to UK solidarity, one of the memories of this remarkable year that we will all share is President Zelensky’s address to both Houses of Parliament.

As we look ahead to next year, I want to ask about the Government’s assessment of two events taking place. One is President Zelensky’s visit to Washington and the other is President Putin’s to Belarus. Will the Minister’s share the Government’s assessment of the renewed risk of an attack via Belarus towards Kyiv? That was Russia’s original intent, which was rebuffed, but the threat is, if anything, just as great as we look ahead to next year. I would be grateful if the Government would share their assessment of this risk.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I say to the noble Viscount that I think we were all moved by President Zelensky’s address to parliamentarians. I was certainly moved by Madam Zelenska’s address, which was a most poignant and memorable speech. It brought home the raw and cruel nature of this illegal war, which she spelled out in very clear terms.

The noble Viscount will understand that I am limited on what I can say about how we assess intelligence. We liaise closely with our allies, not least the United States, and with our other partners in NATO. As I said earlier, we of course liaise closely with the armed forces of Ukraine. We are alert to where threats may be heading and to how degraded the Russian military effort is. Everyone should understand that. It has been impacted by the sanctions and by intrinsically poor planning, training and equipment. The sad fact is that many Russian soldiers have been sacrificed in this illegal endeavour by Putin, which is absolutely to be deplored. The Russian military endeavour has been materially degraded and it is important to remember that. I cannot share specific information, but I reassure the noble Viscount that, in our conversations with the Ukrainian armed forces, we are very alert to understanding exactly what they see as the threat, then working out what we can do to assist and respond.

Photo of Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Baroness Stuart of Edgbaston Non-affiliated

My Lords, I refer to my registered interest as chair of Wilton Park. I urge the Minister to look at a report that was published today, The Role of the Private Sector in Ukraine’s Recovery and Reconstruction, which was a result of a conference held last week in Warsaw. The UK’s engagement in looking beyond the immediate situation of the war is incredibly important and the international private sector plays an important role. I urge the Minister to use our convening power to pull together the various strands of work that would allow for that reconstruction, as and when it is appropriate.

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

I thank the noble Baroness for referring to that report. I am not familiar with it, but I shall now make myself familiar with it. I hear her plea, so we will look closely at the report and consider what else we can do.

Photo of Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Green

My Lords, this will be the last Green group contribution in the House this year, barring any last-minute recalls—I fear I may be tempting fate—so I hope that the House will forgive me for taking one second to thank, as many others have, all of the staff, who, mostly invisibly to the outside world, keep us operating here through the unsociable and highly unpredictable hours to which we cling. I offer profound thanks to all of the staff.

I am very glad that we are taking this Ukraine Statement, but it is a grave pity that yesterday’s biodiversity COP 15 Oral Statement in the other place has not been picked up today. I hope that someone can confirm that we will at least be doing that belatedly in the new year.

On the Ukraine Statement, my question follows on from that of the noble Baronesses opposite. The Statement focuses on Russian attacks on military targets in Ukraine in this illegal war but, of course, at the moment a lot of the Russian military activity focuses on attacks on civilian infrastructure, particularly energy infrastructure. One of the things that I found from my visit last month to Kyiv and surrounding areas, particularly Irpin and Bucha, was that the Ukrainians are working very hard to restore things and keep things going, even under this continuing attack on civilian infrastructure. One of the things that they have found relates to renewable infrastructure. I heard about solar panels on hospitals and medical facilities, which mean that they can continue to keep functioning even when the rest of the system goes down. Can the noble Baroness reassure me on what the Government are doing? She talked about our attention span not being short. Are we focusing on helping the Ukrainians to support that essential civilian infrastructure? Are we particularly looking at rebuilding, now and into the future, using resilient renewable infrastructure that can be there for the long term for the Ukrainians?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

Yes, I heard the noble Baroness’s remark about the repeat of the COP 15 Statement. I understand that there has been a genuine logistics problem with the sheer volume of urgent business arriving in this House. Indeed, I did not expect to be attending to two items on the last day before the Recess, but I am delighted to do so as they are on such important subjects.

Attention is certainly being paid to infrastructure and reconstruction, but the noble Baroness will understand that, whatever plans we develop with our partners and allies—and very good plans are being developed—this anticipates and has to be predicated on some sort of stability and peace within the region. Otherwise, we will not have an environment in which we can safely start addressing that reconstruction. So it is very important to observe that there is still a job to be done in seeing off this illegal attack by President Putin.

On the issues to which the noble Baroness referred, I described in some detail what we have been involved in, but I can provide some more detail that might interest her. We are providing support for Ukraine’s early recovery through the partnership fund for a resilient Ukraine, which is a £37 million multi-donor fund that the UK belongs to. Through this, the UK, alongside other countries, has already provided extensive support for the repair of buildings, as well as other activities in the Kyiv Oblast and other parts of Ukraine.

A UK Export Finance initiative has also committed £3.5 billion of cover to Ukraine to enable support for priority projects, such as infrastructure, healthcare, clean energy and security sectors. Working with the Government of Ukraine, the UK Government have identified an initial eight construction projects to be supported by UK Export Finance. This is all about helping to repair Ukraine’s critical infrastructure, laying the foundations for economic recovery.

Next year, the United Kingdom will host the 2023 reconstruction conference, which will be a very important occasion that will be informed by a lot of the information that has already come into our domain within this Chamber in the last year, not least the report to which the noble Baroness referred. This will be an important development. Obviously, in reconstruction, one imagines that attention will be paid to the most energy-efficient technologies, and one would hope that that would be a matter of explicit consideration. But I repeat that, although we would love to make progress with this, we cannot do so safely until we have got under control the conflict situation that exists in Ukraine at the moment. The best thing that can happen is that this degraded, demoralised and, frankly, immoral Russian Government instruct their troops to withdraw from Ukraine—that would be good news for the Russian people—and then let Ukraine get on with the job of building for the future, with help from friends and allies.

Photo of Lord Young of Cookham Lord Young of Cookham Deputy Chairman of Committees

Further to the answer that my noble friend the Minister has just given, can she say something about grain exports? They are important, not just as revenue to Ukraine and its farmers but as a source of food to third-world countries. As we saw last month, they can be disrupted at a moment’s notice by Russia. Further to what my noble friend the Minister has said about infrastructure, what steps have been taken to reinforce infrastructure within Ukraine so that grain and other commodities can be exported by road rather than by sea?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

My noble friend is right that the export of grain is absolutely critical; it is instrumental to global food security. It has been a matter of profound regret that Russia was prepared to obstruct those grain exports, much of which is needed to feed the world’s hungry—and, in many cases, the world’s hungry poor. My noble friend makes an important point, and, as he is aware, the UK continues to support United Nations-led efforts to support the grain initiative, which is currently allowing grain to get out. Echoing what I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, we have to try to ensure that whatever is happening within Ukraine is predicated upon safe routes that may not be vulnerable to attack. That is one of the constant issues with which we contend. We are very conscious, as are our allies, about supporting the initiative; it has been a success and it is in everyone’s interest to ensure that it continues beyond March 2023. We urge Russia not to block its extension.

Photo of Lord McDonald of Salford Lord McDonald of Salford Crossbench

My Lords, one of the many ways in which President Putin miscalculated his invasion of Ukraine was a failure to foresee its galvanising effect on NATO. Since the invasion, both Finland and Sweden have applied for NATO membership. By earlier this month, all allies, apart from Turkey and Hungary, had ratified the new memberships. Hungary has said that it will ratify them by the end of the year, but Turkey is still in play. Can the Minister say what His Majesty Government’s latest assessment is of the prospects of early Turkish ratification of that very important enlargement?

Photo of Baroness Goldie Baroness Goldie Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence

It is an important enlargement, and we support it. Turkey is an important ally to the United Kingdom; we are on good terms with Turkey. We will certainly use whatever influences we have, whether through MoD or diplomatic channels, to advance the case for the benefit to NATO and the broader Baltic region of Sweden and Finland becoming NATO members. We are committed to that, and we will use our best efforts to try to influence that debate.

Photo of Baroness Smith of Newnham Baroness Smith of Newnham Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence), Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Defence)

My Lords, for the avoidance of doubt, I should have made it clear earlier that my trip to the Falkland Islands was at the invitation and expense of the Falkland Islands Government, as declared in the register of interests.