Like so many people across the country, I have been shocked by the scenes we have witnessed in recent weeks and my thoughts and prayers are very much with the Ukrainian people who have displayed awe-inspiring bravery and heroism at this most perilous moment, not just for them, but for the world.
As a Member of Parliament, I also stand in solidarity with my colleagues in the Ukrainian Parliament, including President Zelenskyy, as they fight to defend their precious democratic freedoms.
President Putin, enabled by Belarus, has unleashed a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, sea and air. This is a premeditated and unprovoked attack, barbaric in execution, on a sovereign democratic state.
I commend the leadership shown by the Prime Minister in encouraging the world to support Ukraine, such as with defensive military aid, and isolate Russia for its illegal invasion, including through the imposition of sanctions aimed at crippling its economy and war machine.
On such an important issue, I felt it important to provide a comprehensive overview of the Government's response to the crisis as it stands today.
The Prime Minister has said that nothing is off the table when it comes to the UK's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and indeed the desire of its people to live in peace, democracy and free from foreign bullying.
President Putin must fail. I am assured that the UK Government, standing alongside our friends in Ukraine and allies around the world, using all possible means at its disposal, is urgently engaged in ensuring he does. I will of course continue to follow these efforts closely.
Maggie Throup MP - Member of Parliament for Erewash
In lockstep with allies around the world, the UK has:
- sanctioned President Putin and over 1000 individuals and entities with a close connection to his wicked regime
- sanctioned Russia's Central Bank, banned the Russian State and all Russian companies from raising funds in the UK, and frozen the assets of all Russian banks
- shut off Russian banks' access to the global financial system by blocking access to SWIFT
- strengthened export controls against Russia by banning the export of high-end and critical technical equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace, thereby degrading Russia's military and economic development
- banned the export of high-end luxury goods (vehicles, high-end fashion, works of art etc) to Russia
- denied Russia and Belarus entitlement to Most Favoured Nation tariff access to our economy on hundreds of imports, adding a 35-percentage-point tariff increase on £900 million worth of imported goods, including vodka and antiques (tariffs increasing from 0 to 35 per cent)
- worked to prevent Russia from obtaining financing from the leading multilateral financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and World Bank
- banned Aeroflot, Russia's national airline, and all other Russian commercial and private jets from UK airspace. New legislation makes it a criminal offence for any Russian aircraft to fly or land in the UK and gives the Government the ability to detain any aircraft owned by persons connected with Russia, and to remove them from the UK aircraft register
- denied access to UK ports to ships owned, controlled, charter or operated by anyone connected to Russia as well as any vessel registered in Russia or flying the Russian flag
- imposed new restrictions to cut off wealthy Russians’ access to UK banks
- imposed sanctions on Belarus for its complicity in Putin's invasion
- extended a Crimea-type embargo to occupied territory in the breakaway Ukrainian republics
- intensified sanctions enforcement, with new powers for law enforcement and a specialised Kleptocracy unit to crack down on companies that breach sanctions
- passed new urgent legislation – the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act – giving Government new powers to crack down on corrupt elites in the UK
To be clear, these internationally coordinated measures collectively amount to the biggest, most devastating package of sanctions imposed against a single country in history.
Ukrainian Family Scheme
This allows family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come or stay in the UK. Those joining the Scheme will be granted leave for three years and will be able to work, study and access public funds. The Scheme is also free and does not include any salary or language requirements.
Ukrainians already in the UK can either extend their visa or switch to another immigration route, where eligible, even if their visa does not normally allow them to do so
The Home Secretary has announced changes to the Ukrainian Family Scheme resulting in Ukrainians with passports no longer needing to go to a Visa Application Centre to give their biometrics before they come to the UK. Instead, once their application has been considered and appropriate checks have been completed, they will receive direct notification that they are eligible for the Scheme and can come to the UK and will be able to give their biometrics once in Britain.
Guidance on the support available to Ukrainian nationals and their family members can be found here:
'Homes for Ukraine'
This scheme will allow individuals, charities, community groups and businesses in the UK to bring Ukrainians to safety - including those with no family ties with the UK. I understand that individual sponsors will be asked to provide homes or a spare room rent-free for as long as they are able, with a minimum stay of six months. In return, they will receive £350 per month. Ukrainians arriving in the UK under this scheme will be granted three years' leave to remain, with entitlement to work, and access benefits and public services.
For information on how to record your interest in the scheme, please search:
Impact on Russian Public
The UK and allies clearly warned President Putin that there would be a severe cost for his country were there to be any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine. Putin alone is responsible for the impact of sanctions on the lives of the Russian people.
For a number of years now, the UK has worked to support Ukraine's security and defence. The UK has, for instance, trained over 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation ORBITAL since 2015.
In recent months the UK has provided Ukraine with over 3,615 new light anti-tank weapons (NLAWs) along with a range of other defensive weapons and non-lethal aid such as body armour. The Defence Secretary recently informed the House of Commons that the UK will shortly start delivering anti-tank Javelin missiles, and that the Government is also exploring the possibility of donating Starstreak high-velocity, man-portable anti-air missiles, which would allow Ukraine to better defend its skies. The decision to supply defensive systems has my full support.
The Defence Secretary recently hosted 25 countries as part of an international conference of donors for lethal and non-lethal military aid to Ukraine, coordinating donations and organising aircraft and support for donations to be delivered.
The UK government has brought 21 Ukrainian children with cancer to receive care through the NHS in England. The children will undergo an assessment to understand their specific health needs before getting treatment at an appropriate NHS hospital.
This intervention is part of the government’s wider humanitarian response to the Ukraine conflict, donating over two million medical items to Ukraine including vital medicines, wound packs, and intensive care equipment.
Total UK aid to Ukraine and the region for the current crisis comes to £395 million, making us the largest humanitarian donor. This includes £220m of humanitarian assistance; £100m to bolster the Ukrainian economy and reduce Ukraine’s reliance on Russian gas imports; and £75m for the Ukrainian government budget to mitigate financial pressures created by the invasion. The UK is also guaranteeing up to $500m of loans to Ukraine through Multilateral Development Banks.
The Government is also matching the first £25 million donated by the British public to the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, see: https://donation.dec.org.uk/ukraine-humanitarian-appeal
A Humanitarian Assistance Task Force of 1,000 soldiers is at readiness in the UK to support a humanitarian response in the region should it be needed. Humanitarian Teams from the FCDO are also on the ground in neighbouring countries.
The UK is also donating 500 mobile generators to Ukraine. These will provide much needed energy to essential facilities across Ukraine, including hospitals, shelters and water treatment plants which have lost power during the ongoing Russian invasion.
Discrimination on the Polish Border
I am concerned by credible reports of discrimination against people of African, Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds amongst those seeking to leave Ukraine. The UK is committed to the principle of non-discrimination on any grounds, including on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or race. The Foreign Secretary pledged to raise this issue with her Polish counterpart when questioned about it in Parliament.
The British Embassy in Kyiv has temporarily relocated. Embassy staff are operating from the British Embassy office in Lviv. British nationals in Ukraine should heed the FCDO's travel advice for Ukraine. FCDO rapid deployment teams have been deployed to countries neighbouring Ukraine to assist UK embassies in supporting British nationals who have crossed Ukraine's borders, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
The UK spends more in cash terms on defence than any NATO member, other than the US. The UK is Europe’s largest contributor to NATO. We have deployed more troops to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence than any other ally.
The British Army leads the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia and, because of this ongoing crisis, is doubling the number of UK personnel based there and sending additional equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.
The UK also has troops stationed in Poland as part of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence there. Royal Marines from 45 Commando have also deployed to Poland to support the Polish Armed Forces with joint exercises, contingency planning and capacity building in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This support is being offered on a bilateral basis and is not part of the UK’s offer to NATO.
Additional aircraft have also been posted to our base in Cyprus to patrol the skies with NATO Allies in Eastern Europe, and UK warships are conducting patrols in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea alongside NATO Allies from Canada, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
The UK has long called on others to increase their contributions to the Alliance, and it is very welcome that, for instance, Germany recently announced that it will henceforth spend 2 per cent of its GDP on defence.
Ukraine & NATO
Each and every nation has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. Countries choose NATO; NATO does not choose them. If Russia has concerns about enlargement, then perhaps it should ask why, when countries were free to choose, they chose NATO – a purely defensive alliance. The UK stands up for the right of all countries, including Ukraine, to choose their own destiny; and is clear that the Kremlin has no right to dictate what other sovereign states can or cannot choose. Therefore, whilst I appreciate the calls for Ukraine to join NATO, ultimately membership is a matter for Ukraine themselves and no one else.
I understand people’s desire to see a no-fly zone instituted above Ukraine. However, I would highlight the words of the Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey MP, in the House of Commons that such a policy would present too high a risk of miscalculation and escalation that could ultimately lead to the inadvertent triggering of NATO’s Article 5.
Brits joining the Ukrainians
The FCDO advises against all travel to Ukraine and is recommending that British nationals still in Ukraine should leave immediately if it is safe to do so. I understand people’s desire to help in this terrible situation and I would highlight that the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK has set up a special fund to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine’s civilian population and to purchase medical and military supplies for Ukraine’s army. It is possible to donate at withukraine.org. As such, I would dissuade any Brit from travelling to Ukraine, whatever the reason.
Ukraine is a major producer of grain. Russia's invasion of the country will undoubtedly severely impede these exports, the effect of which will be felt around the world. The UK has a highly resilient food supply chain, built on strong domestic production and diverse sources of foreign supply. The Prime Minister outlined just some of the measures the Government is taking to further buttress UK food security, including to support domestic producers, in the House of Commons on 2 March when questioned on this matter.
Potential Russian War Crimes
The images emerging from Ukraine, including of mass civilian casualties (including children) resulting from the indiscriminate bombing and shelling of cities by the Russian military, are immensely harrowing. The UK is crystal clear that President Putin cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity and, on 2 March, along with 37 of our allies, referred his regime's atrocities in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court. This referral means the ICC Prosecutor can now proceed straight to an investigation. The UK also joined 44 partners on 3 March to launch an OSCE mission to investigate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by Russia in Ukraine.
Nuclear Power Plant Attack
Attacks against civilian nuclear sites are prohibited under the Geneva Conventions. An International Atomic Energy Agency resolution condemning Russia's assaults on nuclear facilities in Ukraine was passed on 3 March. The UK is using all legal and political means at its disposal to further address these acts, including via the UN Security Council.