Like everyone across the country, I have been watching events unfold in Ukraine with horror, shock and sadness. Vladimir Putin’s attack is an unprovoked, unjustifiable outrage, and a heinous violation of international law. Make no mistake, an attack on Ukraine is an attack on democracy. Everyone who believes in the triumph of democracy over dictatorship, good over evil and freedom over tyranny, must now support the Ukrainian people.
I was immensely proud to see Tameside Council flying the flag of Ukraine at Dukinfield Town Hall. This is a strong statement of solidarity to the people of Ukraine, and to Ukrainian friends living in the United Kingdom. I would like to echo the words of Tameside Council Leader Brenda Warrington, who last week urged any Ukrainians in Tameside, or those who have family in Ukraine and need support to come forward: We will do whatever we can to help you.
Ultimately, this is about standing up for what is right. The United Kingdom believes in the rule of law, in freedom and in democracy. We have a long tradition of staking up to dictators and tyrants, we must continue that tradition, and match our words with actions. That’s why I’ve advocated the hardest possible sanctions against all those linked to Putin and against the Russian government’s interests.
The sanctions announced so far by the Government have been good in principle, but we can, and we must go further. We must do everything we can to cut Putin’s rogue regime out of our financial system. That means widening export controls to include luxury goods, expanding the number of banks prevented from accessing sterling, and sanctioning more of Putin’s oligarchs and cronies who have assets here in the UK.
Alongside these tough measures, we must make sure that we urgently prepare to offer humanitarian support for Ukraine, and for our neighbours and partners on its borders. That means offering a simple sanctuary route to the UK for all who need it, and providing aid to the Ukrainian people at their hour of need.
These are dark and uncertain times, and I am sure I am not alone in feeling incredibly concerned at what the future holds. However, it is more important than ever that we stand up for what is right and send a message to the Ukrainian people that they have our full support as they bravely resist this assault.