Ukraine needs our help so we must deliver - Lorna Slater

Last Friday I joined hundreds of protesters for a vigil outside the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh. We were there because we were angry. We were angry and horrified by the brutal bombardment and violence that has been inflicted on Ukraine.

The first days of the war have seen the widespread destruction of civilian targets and millions of Ukrainians displaced as the Russian military have shelled towns and cities across the country.

Like in all wars, it is the most vulnerable, and the people with the least, who will suffer the most. During the conflict in Crimea in 2014, Amnesty International and other monitoring groups documented war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights abuses on the part of Russian forces.

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On the day that the invasion began, the Scottish Government’s St Andrew’s House office was lit up in the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag. The afternoon had seen a sombre debate, as our Parliamentarians put differences aside and stood as one against the war.

Protesters hold a demo outside the Russian Consulate General in Edinburgh following the invasion of Ukraine.

That evening I attended a meeting of party leaders from across the different European Green parties. I heard stories from friends across the continent. In Warsaw they were preparing for the first trains of refugees to arrive, while in Bulgaria they were concerned about the prospect of radiation fallout.

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It is imperative that all governments do everything they can to stop the violence and to provide practical support, aid and refuge for people who need it.

There has been an amazing showing of solidarity from people around the world. This includes the people I joined at the vigil in Edinburgh, but also the hundreds of people who protested in Moscow, despite the very real risk to their safety. That support needs to be replicated by our governments.

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This kind of unprovoked attack cannot be normalised or go unanswered. If Putin's aggression succeeds and things return to "business as usual” then it will be a terrible failing on the part of the international community.

That is why we need to see comprehensive global action and meaningful sanctions against Putin and his regime; this includes far-reaching measures from all governments against any bank or organisation connected to Russia’s arms industry and against Putin’s associates.

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We must also ensure that Putin and his regime have no voice in our politics: whether that means politicians refusing to go on state mouthpieces like RT or political parties offering full transparency and handing back any money that is tainted through association.

The kind of terrible humanitarian catastrophe that we have seen in Afghanistan cannot be repeated in Ukraine. Ireland and Moldova are among those that have promised to provide support and safety for refugees, and it is vital that governments like the UK do the same.

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Edinburgh was among the cities that opened our doors and our hearts to people fleeing the repression and conflict in Afghanistan, and we must be prepared to do it again. We must be ready to welcome refugees fleeing this conflict, especially those most at risk under a Russian occupation such as journalists and LGBTQ+ people.

Edinburgh has been twinned with the city of Kyiv, Ukraine, since 1989. We have a strong and vibrant Ukrainian population here in our city. They are nervous and anxious about their friends and family who are on the frontline of the crisis. It is vital that we stand in unity with them, and in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

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Lorna Slater is a Lothian Green MSP and Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity