Dependency on gas is aiding Putin’s evil war - Lorna Slater
Last Wednesday was Ukraine Independence Day, marking 31 years since the state was founded. It also marked six months since the Russian invasion began.
The Ukrainian people have shown huge bravery, determination and defiance in the face of an unjust, unprovoked and illegal invasion. But the humanitarian cost has been devastating. Over 13 million people have been displaced, and thousands have been killed as a direct result of the conflict.
The UN puts the civilian death toll at over 6000, although it warns that the real figure could be far higher. This invasion did not need to happen. Every one of these losses is a terrible Putin-inflicted tragedy. None of these people had to die.
Every day that the war endures is another day of pain and another day when even more families will suffer bereavement and loss.
Even if the violence was to end tomorrow, the rebuilding would take years and many would be consigned to years of poverty and destitution. Whole neighbourhoods have been destroyed, with the Kiev School of Economics estimating that the recovery will cost over $200 billion.
The aerial attacks by Russian forces have often seemed indiscriminate in nature, with reports of bombs and missiles hitting residential neighbourhoods far away from any military targets.
However, other attacks have appeared chillingly and clinically targeted. The World Health Organisation has recorded over 180 attacks on medical facilities alone since the war began, suggesting they are being targeted by a Russian army that has shown a total disregard for international law.
The brutality of the invasion has been met with a deep well of international solidarity. Since the outbreak of the war there were mass protests happening in towns and cities all across the world.
Here in Edinburgh, I joined MSPs and party leaders from across our chamber as we stood together in solidarity and unity. This could be one reason why I was among the list of politicians and public figures that were banned from entering Russia by the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The people of Scotland have responded to the crisis by opening their hearts and their doors to Ukraine. I am proud that 9000 displaced Ukrainians have made Scotland their home, while DEC Scotland’s Ukraine appeal has raised £34 million to help people in need.
In contrast, the Russian consulate in Edinburgh is still using its online platforms and resources to spread false narrative and misinformation about the war. Every day they are pumping out pro-Russian talking points and trying to minimise the atrocities and abuses that are being inflicted by Russian forces.
We must ensure that Putin has no voice in our politics. But that doesn’t just mean confronting his propaganda, it also means taking action to end our dependence on gas, which the Kremlin has been able to use as a diplomatic weapon.
That is one reason why European governments are increasing their investment in renewable technology, and why the UK must do the same. It’s better for people and the planet, but it also reduces the influence of the Russian government and other repressive regimes around the world.
It is vital that Ukraine doesn’t suffer another six months of destruction. Words are important, but the international community needs to act and do everything it can to ensure that when Ukraine marks its next independence day the invasion is long over.
Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity