My View on Ukraine

Thursday March 3rd 2022


Owen Thompson MP, signing a book of solidarity to be sent to Ruslan Stefanchuk, Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament.

Midlothian MP, Owen Thompson, writes his monthly column for Midlothian View

The news from Ukraine is very difficult to watch right now. Every day we learn of further atrocities being committed by Putin’s invading forces, with land seized, towns and cities brutally bombarded and a 40 mile long Russian military convoy snaking its way towards the capital, Kyiv.

The people of Ukraine continue to show incredible courage and resilience in the face of this horror, by all accounts surprising the Russians and scuppering the speed of their plans. These actions by the Russian regime are utterly indefensible and the blame lies solely at the door of Vladimir Putin. The world watches in despair, unable to comprehend why anyone would start such an unprovoked war against their neighbours, with complete disregard for human life.

As Scotland’s First Minister puts it, Putin is “a deluded imperialist and an autocrat who can’t countenance democracy on his borders for fear that it might find its way into Russia.”

It is right that these actions are being described as war crimes and it’s good to see unusually speedy action to investigate from the International Criminal Court.

Many people ask why western allies are not helping with troops on the ground or by imposing a no-fly zone and it’s hard not to sympathise with this – it would be a just war, if ever there were one, to protect freedom and democracy. But the consequences of NATO forces going in could be catastrophic. It could result in World War 3 and even greater death and destruction than the horrific scenes we are witnessing.

I believe we are right to provide support for the Ukrainian fighters and to try to choke off the Russian war machine with the toughest possible sanctions – far tougher than we have done so far.

The UK has been particularly reticent in sanctioning Russian oligarchs, which perhaps is no surprise given the long list of links between Russian billionaires and the Conservative party. I have long argued for a crackdown on Russian dirty money being laundered in London, as well as action to tackle organised cybertroop activities from nefarious outside forces including Russia – deliberately designed to interfere with our democratic processes. These issues may have seemed remote and irrelevant to our everyday lives, but now we see the fragility of a democracy in the face of such an aggressor.

By doing nothing on disinformation and financial corruption, we enable tyrants like Putin. We cannot take our own democracy for granted and let corruption fester at its core. The findings of the Russia report cannot continue to be ignored.

We must also provide far greater levels of humanitarian support than we have done so far. The EU family of nations, including our neighbours in Ireland, have waived visa requirements for Ukrainians for three years and this is something I and my colleagues in the SNP have urged the UK Government to do.

Instead, we have witnessed piecemeal fiddling with the restrictive “family reunion” visa routes – putting bureaucratic blocks on the path to safety. I have constituents desperately worried about friends and family members in Ukraine but even those with clear links to the UK are finding it hard to navigate a legal path. It is shameful.

Then there’s Midlothian based rocket launch company Skyrora, still struggling to find a route for the 40+ staff in their Ukrainian base in Dnipro, where the staff have had to turn their skills to building makeshift anti-tank blockades. I and my colleague Christine Grahame MSP have called for a corporate sponsorship scheme as one, first step to help more of those with business as well as family links to find refuge, but this goes nowhere near far enough to meet the crisis.

We need to at least match the offer of the EU and to lift the unnecessary bureaucracy altogether, providing safety to all refugees who need it.

The response to Ukraine humanitarian appeals has been incredible, not least from the people of Midlothian. If anyone wants to donate please now make it cash rather than goods – check Ready Scotland for ways you can help.

Midlothian has sent a clear message that we stand with Ukraine but the generosity of the response must now be matched by a more generous approach to the plight of refugees from the UK Government.

This is a chance to prove to the world that the UK remains a compassionate state and these islands are open and welcoming to all who need our support.

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