I was in my late twenties when the Soviet Union fell and a new era in Europe began. While the past three decades have not been without conflict, the threat of a major war on our continent has seemed distant.
But this changed quickly as Russian armed forces built up on the Ukrainian Border and Putin’s intent to strike became clear.
The full-scale and utterly unjustified invasion which followed on 24th February was an unprovoked and abhorrent assault on a sovereign and democratic state and I welcome the decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into possible war crimes.
The UK Government, along with our allies, has resisted putting troops on the ground and I believe this is the right approach. The decision to go to war is the most difficult decision a Prime Minister will ever make, and embroiling ourselves militarily in a war against a major nuclear power would have escalated the situation far beyond what is already a nightmare.
But this does not mean standing idly by and the UK has been at the forefront of the international response. We have supplied Ukraine with anti-tank weapons and defensive equipment, and we have sent ships, troops and fighter planes to strengthen NATO’s eastern front – demonstrating our support to NATO member states who Putin may turn his attention to next.
Along with our allies, we are also imposing the largest and most severe package of sanctions that Russia has ever seen. These include sanctions on their banking and defence sectors, banning Russian commercial and private jets from our skies and their ships from our ports.
Whatever happens over the coming days, weeks and months in Ukraine, these sanctions will have a devastating impact on Russia’s economy and will put heavy internal pressure on Putin.
The House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, which I chair, will be starting an immediate inquiry into how sanction against Russia can be extended and made more effective. Our first hearing was on Monday.
The Government has already listened to our calls to strengthen Unexplained Wealth Orders and for a Register of Overseas Entities owning property in the UK – a further blow to Russia’s Oligarchs with close ties to Putin.
I deeply regret that the sanctions will hit the poorest in Russia very hard. These are innocent people, far removed from Vladimir Putin, but there is simply no viable alternative. The strongest possible economic pressure must be put on Russia to abandon its unjustifiable war.
To support the people of Ukraine, we have supplied more than £200 million in aid and are guaranteeing up to $500 million of Ukrainian Development Bank financing. The funding will help aid agencies respond to the deteriorating humanitarian situation. The Home Secretary has confirmed new visa concessions for Ukrainians living, working and studying in the UK, and we will welcome Ukrainian refugees to the UK to help many of those in need.
If I can assist any Ukrainian national living or working in Central Devon, please do not hesitate to contact me (details at www.melstridemp.com).
Rt Hon Mel Stride MP
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