Many constituents have contacted me regarding the ongoing conflict in Ukraine – indeed several hundred and I appreciate how concerned people are about the deteriorating situation there, as indeed I am. The unprovoked acts of aggression conducted by Putin’s regime are deeply saddening and unjustified. My thoughts and prayers are with innocent families who lie victim to this war, especially such children who are increasingly vulnerable.
The Prime Minister is playing a leading role in the West to impose the most severe and coordinated package of sanctions Russia has ever faced in response to Putin's illegal invasion of Ukraine. In lockstep with allies, the UK is:
- Sanctioning Russia's Central Bank, banning the Russian State and all Russian companies from raising funds in the UK, and freezing the assets of all Russian banks.
- Shutting off Russian banks' access to the global financial system by blocking access to SWIFT.
- Sanctioning President Putin, his Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, leading oligarchs and hundreds of individuals, entities and their subsidiaries at the heart of his wicked regime.
- Strengthening 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.
- Sanctioning members of the Russian Duma and National Security Council for their support for the invasion.
- Banning Aeroflot, Russia's national airline, and all other Russian commercial and private jets from UK airspace.
- Denying access to UK ports to ships owned, controlled, charter of operated by anyone connected to Russia as well as any vessel registered in Russia or flying the Russian flag.
- Imposing new restrictions to cut off wealthy Russians’ access to UK banks.
- Imposing sanctions on Belarus for its complicity in Putin's invasion.
- Extending a Crimea-type embargo to occupied territory in the breakaway Ukrainian republics.
- Intensifying sanctions enforcement, with new powers for law enforcement and a specialised Kleptocracy unit to crack down on companies that breach sanctions.
- Bringing forward measures from the Economic Crime Bill early which strengthen Unexplained Wealth Orders and broaden their scope, cracking down on corrupt elites in the UK.
These internationally coordinated measures collectively amount to the biggest, most devastating package of sanctions imposed against a single country in history.
Helping Refugees from Ukraine
The Ukrainian Family Scheme will allow family members of British nationals, UK settled persons and certain others to come or stay in the UK. Those joining the Scheme will not be charged, be granted leave for three years and will be able to work and access public funds. The Scheme does not include 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. Guidance on the support available to Ukrainian nationals and their family members can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/support-for-family-members-of-british-nationals-in-ukraine-and-ukrainian-nationals-in-ukraine-and-the-uk
As I am sure you will already be aware, the Government has recently launched the new 'Homes for Ukraine' scheme which 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. 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 further information on the scheme, please search: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
It is vital that desperate Ukrainians fleeing their homes can access the generous support provided by the Government as quickly as possible. The Minister for Safe and Legal Migration has updated Parliament on the measures the Government is taking to expedite applications. I am pleased to confirm that staff have been surged to key visa application centres across Europe, particularly Poland, and more biometric kit has been moved to support them. Supporting this work from the UK, the Home Office has put casework teams on standby to process applications to prevent delays.
It is essential that a choke point is not created at places such as Calais. People smugglers are already present in the region, and it is crucial that people do not attempt to make dangerous Channel crossings to enter the UK. I am encouraged that the Government is looking to establish a presence in Lille, alongside providing transport options, to help Ukrainians in the region.
Donations from Russian Oligarchs
With regards to your comments on Russian donations, I have personally received no donations from Russian backers. I take the transparency of donations to political parties seriously. It is intricately tied into the public’s trust of our democratic processes. The decision to accept donations in the first instance is a matter for political parties. When a donation or loan is received parties must record the information, check the source is permissible, confirm that it meets the requirements and report it to the Electoral Commission if applicable. For example, if a donation or loan comes from an individual who is not registered on the UK electoral register, this does not count has a permissible donation.
Ukraine and NATO
The UK and our NATO Allies are united in response to Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and are collectively taking a range of measures to protect their security and deter further aggression. NATO has committed to make all deployments necessary to ensure strong and credible deterrence and defence across the Alliance, now and in the future. These measures are and remain preventive, proportionate and non-escalatory.
The UK – indeed, the world – cannot stand idly by whilst Russian troops lay siege to once peaceful European cities, whilst tanks tear through towns and missiles rain down on homes and hospitals. We have the moral duty to respond to these horrific acts, which are not only an attack on democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe but the very principles of the UN Charter.
Ukraine is not a member of NATO and no pledge has been made to deploy NATO troops to Ukraine. Nor, let me assure you, is it NATO's intention to institute a no-fly zone above Ukraine, as some have suggested. As the Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, noted in the Commons recently, 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.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me. Please be assured that I am following these efforts closely and will continue to stand alongside our friends in Ukraine, supporting their sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Finally, please see below a statement which I have led on as the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief which as you can see has obtained the support of several countries in addition to the UK.
Fiona Bruce MP
Statement by Chair Fiona Bruce MP (UK) on the Situation in Ukraine
As members of the International Religious Freedom or Belief Alliance (IRFBA), we commend the courage, dignity, and determination of the people of Ukraine and their leadership. We stand in solidarity with them, including religious communities throughout the country. We condemn Russia’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine, our fellow IRFBA member.
Ukraine is a strong democracy whose diverse population includes Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, non-believers, and members of other religious groups. With its multiplicity of faith perspectives, Ukraine has been a strong and active defender of the human right to freedom of religion or belief and was one of the earliest countries to commit to membership of the IRFBA and its principles. Its legislation guarantees the equal rights of people of all religions or beliefs.
We denounce President Putin’s cynical attempt to misuse, for his own ends, the history and suffering of people during the Holocaust and World War II, including Ukrainian Jews. His baseless claim that Ukraine is a hotbed for neo-Nazism is just one of the many pretexts fabricated for his war of choice. This is not the first time the Kremlin has falsely accused its neighbours of neo-Nazism and fascism as cover for its own provocations and human rights abuses.
We urge the Kremlin and Russia’s military to cease its illegal invasion and respect the safety of the civilian population of Ukraine, including all religious communities, and to respect the individually held human right to freedom of religion or belief at all times.
We call on all Russians, whatever their religion or belief, to stand up for peace.
The following IRFBA members associate themselves with this statement: Australia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, and the United States.