Thank you for contacting me about the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine.
President Putin has unleashed a full-scale invasion of Ukraine by land, sea and air. This is a premeditated and wholly unprovoked attack on a sovereign democratic state. My thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and their President, whose defiance, courage and patriotism in the face of foreign aggression is inspiring.
The UK and allies have been clear all along that there would be a severe cost for any further Russian military incursion into Ukraine.
I commend the world leadership shown by the Prime Minister in support of Ukraine over these past months, and the leading role he has played in encouraging 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 our allies, the UK is:
Freezing the assets of all Russian banks with immediate effect, including VTB, Russia’s largest bank. Co-ordinated with the US this is the single biggest financial sanction in history.
Preventing Russian companies from borrowing on the UK markets, effectively ending the ability of those companies closest to Putin to raise finance in the UK. This is in addition to banning the Russian state itself from raising funds in the UK, as previously announced.
Alongside the US, EU, Japan and Canada, cutting Russia’s Central Bank off from our markets.
Strengthen our trade and export controls against Russia; banning the export of a range of high-end and critical technical equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace.
Sanctioning President Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Sanctioning over 100 companies and oligarchs at the heart of Putin’s regime, including the vast majority of the Russian defence sector.
Sanctioning members of the Russian Duma and Federation Council.
Banning Russia's national airline (Aeroflot) from UK airspace, and indeed any aircraft which is registered in Russia or owned, chartered or operated by a person connected with Russia from UK airspace.
Imposing new restrictions to cut off wealthy Russians’ access to UK banks.
Excluding many of Russia's key banks from the SWIFT financial system (and pushing for a full ban).
Imposing sanctions on Belarus for its complicity in Putin's invasion.
Extended a Crimea-type embargo to occupied territory in the breakaway Ukrainian republics.
Intensified sanctions enforcement, with new powers for law enforcement and a specialised Kleptocracy unit to crack down on companies that breach sanctions.
Passed new urgent legislation – the Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act – giving Government new powers to crack down on corrupt elites in the UK.
Calls to Cancel Ukraine's Debt
I do appreciate why many people would like to see Ukraine's debt cancelled outright. We all of course want to see maximum assistance extended given to the brave people of Ukraine at this time of national peril. The UK is already providing a package of economic support and relief to Ukraine, including by guaranteeing up to $500m of loans to Ukraine through Multilateral Development Banks, and is encouraging allies to offer all possible assistance too. The UK has said that nothing is off the table when it comes to our support for Ukraine, and I am sure that the UK will go further on economic relief if and where practicable.
Military Support: I welcome that the UK has, for a number of years now, worked to support Ukraine's security and defence. The UK has trained over 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation ORBITAL and, since 2019, assisted Ukraine to build up and sustain a naval capability. In the months prior to the invasion, the UK provided extra support in the form of 2000 anti-armour missiles, which the Ukrainians are now putting to good use. The UK has sent further military support to Ukraine since the invasion.
Humanitarian Support: More than 1,000 British troops have been made ready to support NATO and allies in the event of a humanitarian crisis. These troops are at readiness in the UK to support a humanitarian response in the region should it be needed.
On Sunday, the Prime Minister announced that the UK was sending an additional £40 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of UK aid pledged this year to £140 million. The UK is also guaranteeing up to $500 million of loans to Ukraine through Multilateral Development Banks.
Consular Support: The British Embassy in Kyiv has temporarily relocated. Embassy staff are operating from the British Embassy office in Lviv. British nationals in Ukraine should heed the FCDO's travel advice for Ukraine. FCDO rapid deployment teams have been deployed to countries neighbouring Ukraine to assist UK embassies in supporting British nationals who have crossed Ukraine's borders, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
NATO: The UK spends more in cash terms than any NATO member, other than the US, on defence. The UK is Europe’s largest contributor to NATO. We have deployed more troops to NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence than any other Ally.
The British Army leads the NATO Battlegroup in Estonia and, because of this ongoing crisis, is doubling the number of UK personnel based there and sending additional equipment, including tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.
The UK also has troops stationed in Poland as part of NATO's enhanced Forward Presence there. Royal Marines from 45 Commando have also deployed to Poland to support the Polish Armed Forces with joint exercises, contingency planning and capacity building in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. This support is being offered on a bilateral basis and is not part of the UK’s offer to NATO.
Additional aircraft have also been posted to our base in Cyprus to patrol the skies with NATO Allies in Eastern Europe, and UK warships are conducting patrols in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea alongside NATO Allies from Canada, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
The UK has long called on others to increase their contributions to the Alliance, and it is very welcome that, for instance, Germany recently announced that it will henceforth spend 2 per cent of its GDP on defence.
NATO is and has always been a defensive Alliance, which does not threaten Russia or any other country. NATO remains committed to the dual-track approach of strong defence and meaningful dialogue. In the NATO-Russia Council earlier this year, Allies made clear to Russia that any further aggression that threatens Ukraine's sovereignty or territorial integrity would carry a significant cost.
Ukraine & NATO: Each and every nation has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements. Countries choose NATO; NATO does not choose them. If Russia has concerns about enlargement, then perhaps it should ask itself why, when people were free to choose, they chose NATO – a purely defensive alliance. The UK stands up for the right of all countries, including Ukraine, to choose their own destiny; and is clear that the Kremlin has no right to dictate what other sovereign states can or cannot choose. This is a matter for Ukraine themselves and no one else.
No-fly zone: I understand, of course, people’s desire to see a no-fly zone instituted above Ukraine. However, I would highlight the words of the Minister for the Armed Forces, James Heappey, in the House of Commons that 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.
Brits joining the Ukrainians: The FCDO advise against all travel to Ukraine and is recommending that British nationals still in Ukraine should leave immediately if it is safe to do so. I understand people’s desire to help in this terrible situation and I would highlight that the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK has set up a special fund to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine’s civilian population and to purchase medical and military supplies for Ukraine’s army. It is possible to donate at withukraine.org. As such, I would dissuade any Brit from travelling to Ukraine, whatever the reason.
The Prime Minister has said that nothing is off the table when it comes to the UK's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and indeed the desire of its people to live in peace, democracy and free from foreign bullying.
Putin must fail. I am assured that the UK Government, standing alongside our friends in Ukraine and allies around the world, using all possible means at its disposal, is urgently engaged upon ensuring he does. Be assured that I am following these efforts closely.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP