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Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Stephen Morgan MP responds

Many of you have contacted me in the last few days regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. I know that, like me, you will have been deeply moved by the suffering caused by this unprovoked and unjustifiable attack.

I wanted to set out Labour’s views on this important issue and answer some of the specific questions constituents have asked me in the last few days.

Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine is an unprovoked and unjustifiable outrage that is having tragic consequences for Ukraine and its people. It is a heinous violation of international law that breaks multiple treaties and commitments, including the fundamental principles of the UN Charter. It should be utterly condemned by all nations.

We must now ensure that our Government stands up to dictators and tyrants and stands in solidarity with Ukrainians as they defend their homeland. There can be no space for equivocation when faced with the evil that Putin has unleashed. His actions pose a grave threat to the international order on which we all depend.

NATO and military assistance

The Labour Party’s commitment to NATO is unshakeable – and the alliance has strongly condemned Putin’s actions. We must move in lockstep with our NATO allies, and take steps to reinforce NATO members on the Eastern flank. The Government has Labour’s full support to do this. It is right that Britain has provided support to Ukraine to defend itself – and this should continue.

It is clear that Ukranians intend to defend their country and we must continue to support them in this endeavour.

The UK has already sent defensive assistance to the country – and this has included anti-tank weapons systems, body armour, helmets and boots. We should respond to specific requests from the Ukrainian Government for assistance – which has been the basis for our previous support, as well as coordinate support with our allies.

Sanctions

The sanctions package announced by the government contains measures that are good in principle, but the rhetoric must match the reality as we scrutinise the details, and Labour believes there is more that could be done.

The influence of corrupt Russian money must be extricated from the UK.  Despite warning after warning, the Government has been asleep at the wheel and failed to act, leaving Britain as the destination of choice for kleptocrats who hide their wealth under our noses. It should not have taken an invasion of Ukraine for the government to take action. This must mark a turning point.

The government must now bring forward the urgent measures that Labour have repeatedly called for, ending the impunity that oligarchs have enjoyed, reforming Companies House to crack down on the shell companies that hide suspect wealth, introducing an Overseas Entities Bill to lift the veil on property ownership, and finally bringing forward the Economic Crime Bill that has been delayed.

Refuge

The sad reality is millions have already been displaced and this is likely to worsen in the weeks and months ahead. The Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary must coordinate urgently with our allies, with the UN and with neighbouring countries to offer urgent humanitarian assistance, and support for those crossing the border, to ensure they can leave as safely as possible.

Alongside countries across Europe and across the world we need to make all the necessary preparations to ensure that those who are fleeing conflict can find safety and sanctuary. It is unacceptable that the Home Office is continuing to impose stringent visa requirements on those fleeing war, including the families of British citizens. A safe sanctuary route should be established immediately.

Portsmouth has a well-established reputation as a place of sanctuary. Last year, I was pleased to meet some of the families that were evacuated from Afghanistan as part of Operation Pitting. I have written to the Immigration Minister to reinforce Labour’s calls for the introduction of a safe and legal sanctuary route without further delay.

Frequently asked questions:

How would Labour go further on sanctions?

There is more we can do to cut Putin’s rogue regime out of our financial system.

We are urging the government to widen export controls to include luxury goods, widen the number of banks prevented from accessing sterling, sanction an expanded list of oligarchs and cronies and increase the pace at which individuals and entities are designated, expand sectoral sanctions to cover insurance and further limit the supply of goods, services and technology to the energy sector and other strategic sectors of the Russian economy, apply sanctions to wealth held under the name of family members.

Will this end with UK or NATO troops being sent to Ukraine?

UK or NATO troops will not be deployed to Ukraine. NATO’s Secretary General has been clear about that and said there are no NATO forces in Ukraine. Ukraine is not a NATO member and is not covered by Article 5’s mutual security guarantee.

But we should be absolutely clear about our commitment to the security of NATO allies, many of whom feel threatened by Russia, and we should bolster and reinforce our NATO allies, especially on the Eastern Flank. The Government has our full support to do that. It is also right that Britain continues to provide assistance to help Ukraine defend itself.

What is Labour saying needs to happen to assist in the humanitarian crisis?

The government must urgently prepare humanitarian support for Ukraine, and for neighbours and partners on its borders.

Estimates suggest there are already 2.9 million people in need and this number is likely to rise fast as more areas are targeted. There is a risk of large-scale displacement of people and flows of refugees out of the country fleeing the conflict.

We need the government to urgently provide details on the scale of aid it is providing to support the Ukrainian people at their hour of need.

Russia must grant full and unfettered humanitarian access to the International Red Cross, as it is required to under the Geneva Conventions and abide by the laws of armed conflict.

Does Labour support the government’s new sanctions?

Labour wants to see the strongest possible sanctions as fast as possible to effectively freeze the Russian regime out of our economic system. It’s important that there is unity across our allies and partners in hitting Putin incredibly hard.

A lot of the new sanctions measures that the government announced are good in principle, but the rhetoric must match the reality as we scrutinise the detail and we think the government can go further. Labour strongly welcomes the ban on trading sovereign debts and limiting access to financial markets, which we had been calling for. But the asset freeze designations seem incredibly slow. We would like the government to be moving faster than this and we hope they will in the coming days.

Hasn’t the west been weak in allowing this to happen in the first place?

These are the actions of an unhinged tyrant who has a total disregard for the health and wealth of the people of Russia and Ukraine.

We’re all saddened by this act of war, but we aren’t shocked. Putin has been responsible for conflict in regions of Ukraine since 2014, and he has been propping up authoritarians in the region for longer. Clearly it is a huge tragedy that he diplomatic process of the Minsk agreements have failed. Putin has reached the conclusion that the benefits of invasion have outweighed the costs.

We must work with our Allies across Europe, Nato and beyond to reach new security arrangements that ensure he will never make that calculation in the future.

With energy prices already up, will sanctions against Russia hurt the pockets of us at home?

Thankfully Britain is less exposed to this problem than our European neighbours.

Energy security is vital. We must work with our European allies to handle any disruption in the supply of energy and raw materials.

It is true that we are uniquely exposed to the global gas crisis because of a decade of Tory mismanagement. Gas storage has been cut and we’re reliant on imports. Homes are not insulated; and they’ve been slow on renewables and nuclear.

Is Labour committed to fundamental reform of our energy system?

Yes. That means reducing Britain’s reliance on imported gas by accelerating home-grown renewables and new nuclear.

Making sure 19 million homes are warm and well-insulated, saving households an average of £400 a year on their bills.

And regulating the market better, with a pledge to never again let energy companies play fast and loose with the rules.

Is this a breach of international law?

As NATO and the UN has said, this attack is a grave violation of international law, including the UN Charter, and is wholly contradictory to Russia’s commitments in the Helsinki Final Act, the Charter of Paris, the Budapest Memorandum and the NATO-Russia Founding Act.

It constitutes an act of aggression against an independent peaceful country.