Ukraine-Russia war: UK has sanctioned just 11 oligarchs and is failing to help Ukrainian refugees – Ian Murray MP

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic address to the House of Commons will stay with me forever.

Wednesday, 9th March 2022, 4:45 pm

It was an honour to witness such a determined and courageous individual make the case for defending his country and democracy.

In my time as an MP, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting some wonderful places and few stick in my mind as strongly as the beautiful city of Kyiv.

In 2018, I was there as a Council Of Europe observer to oversee an impeccable democratic election.

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It moved me beyond words as I saw first-hand the beating heart of a fledgling democracy, and what that meant to the Ukrainian people.

I saw a vibrant, multi-cultural, European capital within a strong, sovereign nation that chose its own leaders without fear or coercion.

In the UK, we often take our democracy for granted but Zelensky’s determination proves just how invaluable it is and how hard we must fight to ensure our international neighbours have that same right.

His strength, resolve and fight for sovereignty are remarkable. He never ceases to show us what leadership really means.

A woman hugs a girl as refugees from Ukraine wait for transport at the Moldova-Ukrainian border near the town of Palanca (Picture: Nikolay Doychinov/AFP via Getty Images)

In his address to MPs on Tuesday, Zelensky drew on the words of Winston Churchill and reminded us that he was a man of actions, not just words.

Of course, we all stand with Ukraine, and that solidarity across the world has galvanised and bolstered Ukrainian people.

But for far too long the world has stood idly by while Putin murdered his opponents and made demands through the barrel of a gun.

It’s clear that there is more we can do to heed Ukraine’s calls, cut Putin’s rogue regime out of our financial and political systems, and ensure the Kremlin feels the full force of sanctions now.

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We are more than a week into the war and the UK has sanctioned only 11 oligarchs, putting us massively behind the EU and US.

We cannot let the government’s incompetence and delays allow dozens of Putin-linked oligarchs to run away with billions in loot.

We must close this sanctions gap and tighten the law so we can move faster and harder against the cronies tied to Putin’s regime.

The UK is also falling behind on refugee assistance as we have a Home Office subsumed in chaos and confusion that’s hamstrung by its own decade of ‘hostile environment’ policies.

We are woefully letting down desperate Ukrainian families in their hour of need because Priti Patel can’t get her facts straight and the PM can’t stop lying.

The Ukrainian people are showing great courage and strength in the face of an appalling Russian onslaught, and we must support them in every way.

Labour has called for emergency protection visas for those fleeing Ukraine who want to reach the UK.

This would lift normal visa conditions other than biometrics and security checks which can be swiftly done en route.

This would provide a quick, simple, and safe route to sanctuary for all who need it. The events we are witnessing will stay with us forever.

These are dark days, peace in Europe has been threatened by an imperialist aggressor and the UK cannot afford to be dragging its heels.

The public in Edinburgh and across Europe are doing their bit and much more. Thank you.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South

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