For Ukraine: We Must Act | Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column

Over the last week, as Russia has continued its brutal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, many in Burnley and Padiham will have been watching on in sheer horror at the scenes we are all witnessing.

By Antony Higginbotham
Friday, 4th March 2022, 4:55 am

The pace of progress of the Russian forces has not been what Putin or his Generals envisaged, with the fortitude and determination of the Ukrainian people being beyond anything they imagined.

But sadly, this has resulted in Putin resorting to even more horrifying actions. We have seen the indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and the use of the most dreadful munitions. Making sure that Putin pays for this, and that Ukraine can regain its independence is what unites the whole western world.

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Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

Our response since the invasion last Thursday has been resolute and devastating. It brings together economic sanctions with military support, as well as humanitarian aid.

On sanctions the UK has rightly been leading the charge, with the aim being simple – to isolate Putin and Russia globally and remove his ability to fund the Russian war machine.

The oligarchs who for years have been profiteering from Putin’s regime are now seeing assets frozen and investments decimated.

The way out for them is simple though – call on Putin, who relies on their support, to cease this bloody war.

And Putin himself has not been immune, with his personal assets being sought out and frozen, with HM Treasury leaving no stone unturned in trying to find the opaque structures he’s used to hide these.

But this was never going to be sufficient. That’s why the drastic step was taken to sanction Russian banks, the Russian state’s ability to trade its sovereign debt, and to eject Russian financial institutions from the global SWIFT payment system.

Combined, these measures mean it is almost impossible for Russia to borrow money – starving its Government of cash – or trade globally. And it also means the hundreds of billions of dollars of reserves they had built up to try and circumvent sanctions are now stuck in bank accounts unable to be used.

Crucially too, these sanctions are global with all the key financial centres of London, New York, Frankfurt and Tokyo all excluding Russia. There is nowhere to turn.

The impact is clear for all to see. On Monday there was a 40% reduction in the value of the Russian Rouble; hundreds of billions have been wiped from the value of

Russian companies; the stock market in Moscow has been unable to open; and the oligarchs are in turmoil.

Economic sanctions are not enough though. We also need to help those Ukrainians who are fleeing, and give their armed forces the tools to fight back.

With the unfolding human tragedy it was right that this week the Home Secretary announced the relaxation of the visa rules for refugees. I know from speaking with Ukrainians myself that they are passionate about defending their homeland but there will inevitably be those seeking safe haven and the UK is standing up to help, as so often we do. And the offer that has been made to those in Ukraine will ensure that we are as generous as possible.

We are also coordinating with allies to ensure aid gets in, and any resident who wants to donate to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine can do so by going to the Disaster Emergency Committee website at www.dec.org.uk – with every pound donated by individuals being match funded by Government.

On the tools to fight, we are going further than almost any other country.

Since the illegal invasion of Crimea in 2014 the UK has been training Ukrainian armed forces to ensure they are battle ready, with the total number now standing at more than

22,000.

These are the forces who, to date, have proven so formidable in holding back the Russian advance and they deserve our total respect.

Even before the war started, we began emergency shipments of defensive aid too – anti-tank weapons – at a time when other allies held back. And this has continued.

But we must retain a sense of realism.

This is a conflict which involves a nation with the world’s largest nuclear arsenal and a leader who is clearly unhinged.

So, whilst some are calling for British troops to be deployed and a no-fly zone to be imposed on Ukrainian airspace I have to profoundly disagree. To do so would put UK forces in a

position where they are expected and needed to engage in combat with Russian forces, whether on the ground, or with a no-fly zone, in the air.

Our forces actively engaging and shooting at Russian forces will only escalate the conflict with the consequences being more severe than anything ever seen during the entire Cold War.

It would bring about serious repercussions by turning this into a world war.

That’s why the best course of action is to continue providing Ukraine with lethal aid from across the west, so it can defend itself.

Because ultimately, regardless of what is said, there is no ‘out gunning’ anyone when two nuclear armed powers come into conflict.

I fear it would also simultaneously play into Putin’s hands as he attempts to frame the conflict as a war between Russia and the West. It isn’t. It’s an unprovoked war between Russia and Ukraine where we must continue to do all we can to ensure Ukraine can defend itself, until Russia pulls back and abandons the invasion due to both fierce Ukrainian resistance and economic sanctions which will cripple the Kremlin’s ability to pursue it any further.