Providing hope for the brave people of Ukraine

Torbay Weekly

It is almost impossible to read the news each morning and not be moved by the plight of Ukraine and its people. Their heroism is in stark contrast to the brutality of Putin and his regime.

Last week, the UK Parliament broke with all tradition and invited President Zelensky to address the House of Commons. It was the most moving of occasions in which a stunned Parliament listened in total silence to the rallying cry of a truly remarkable man. His quoting of Shakespeare and Churchill reminded every Member of Parliament of Britain’s stand against aggression and fascism, and encouraged us all to do more to help Ukrainians.

The question is, what more we can do without throwing all of Europe and the world into a conflict, the likes of which has not been seen since the Second World War. Even the most seasoned foreign and defence policy experts are at odds with what the outcome will likely be.

For how long will the people of Ukraine be subjected to this deadly onslaught? How much more can the UK and its allies do? How much further should Europe and NATO push? The obvious answer to the latter two points is a great deal more. However, the unpredictability of Putin means that even the slightest miscalculation could result in an escalation that brings nuclear powers face to face.

While these thoughts and concerns linger, there are some glimmers of hope. Russia’s expectation of a quick and easy victory has been dashed by the resolve of the Ukrainian people. According to the US Department of Defence, five per cent of Russian vehicles and weapons have been rendered out of action.

Their casualties are mounting and poorly trained forces are being led from the front by Russian generals who are paying with their lives. All of which will hit morale hard and, as time drags on, make it harder to advance against an increasingly well-armed and determined Ukrainian army, comprising of regulars, reservists and citizens. But there is always more to be done.

Sanctions are playing their part, but any student of history knows that sanctions alone will not be enough to stop the war outright. The billions of reserves stored up by Putin means that he can play for time.

However, as seen over the weekend, young Russians who dreamt of a new era of politics, plurality and freedom are increasingly pushing back against the state regime. They, in their own ways, are showing a level of bravery not seen since the decline of the Soviet Union. Fragmentation and disillusionment at home should be a cause for concern for Putin and his acolytes. Pressure must be ramped up by the UK and its allies, using the Economic Crime Bill to go further and faster to sustain that pressure.

Our Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace MP, has been pushing since 2021 to arm and train Ukrainian troops. This foresight has inevitably helped in a major way. To date, over 3,600 short-range anti-tank missiles have been provided. This must continue and the British defence industry must spare no part of its sizeable infrastructure to supply the equipment necessary.

As a long-time supporter of foreign aid, I am pleased that colleagues across the House of Commons are recognising the true value of the UK’s development budget. Hundreds of millions of pounds have been provided so far. In a conversation I had last week with the UN Refugee Agency, I was told that our money and aid is reaching those in need in Poland, Hungary, Romania and other surrounding areas. Listening and liaising with those on the ground, such as HALO, War Child and UNICEF will be essential to ensure our aid reaches its destination and that it is tailored yet flexible to help all in need.

The visa system has been slow to respond but there are signs it is speeding up, and coupled with the generosity of households across the country, we will be able to welcome Ukrainians to the safety of the UK.

The death and destruction already suffered will haunt us all for many years to come. We must go further where possible to provide the necessary arms, financial support and humanitarian assistance all while ensuring that this conflict does not spread to other parts of the world. It is a dark and depressing moment for humanity, but where there is resolve and determination to fight against evil, there is always hope.