– in the House of Commons am 1:24 pm ar 28 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa) 1:24, 28 Chwefror 2024

Two years ago, Putin thought his tanks would roll easily into Kyiv and Ukraine would fall within days. He did not expect Ukraine’s brave resistance, he did not expect his military to let him down so badly, and he did not expect the west to stand so firmly in support of Ukraine, with unprecedented sanctions and massive aid to help Ukraine to resist.

Today, Ukraine stands strong and united, and we in the international community stand just as firmly in our support. Even now, Putin tries to pretend he is winning this illegal war, even though Ukraine has retaken half the territory seized in 2022 and largely pushed the Black sea fleet out of Crimea; even though he has failed in his attempts to stop Ukraine exporting grain; and even though his actions have united Europe, convincing Sweden and Finland to join NATO and the EU to begin accession talks with Ukraine. It speaks volumes about this neo-imperialist bully that he stubbornly continues, despite the cost to Ukraine and his own people. In recent months, Putin sent around 50,000 young Russians to their deaths in order to take Avdiivka, a town whose pre-war population was just 35,000. We must and will ensure that he fails, for this is the biggest test of our generation. Putin’s brazen violation of the UN charter strikes at the heart of the rules on which our security and prosperity depend, and our adversaries are watching.

Today, we stand at a critical juncture. Putin should be in no doubt of where we stand, or of our resolve. That is why we announced on Thursday 22 February over 50 new sanctions targeting those supporting his war effort. That includes the arms manufacturers, electronics companies and diamond and oil traders that are sustaining Putin’s illegal war. It brings the total number sanctioned under our Russia regime to 2,000, including banks that account for more than 90% of the Russian banking sector, not to mention more than 130 oligarchs, who together were worth around £147 billion at the time of the invasion.

Last month in Kyiv, the Prime Minister and President Zelensky signed a new agreement that builds Ukraine’s military capabilities, and announced a new wide-ranging partnership—an unbreakable alliance, to last 100 years or more. It includes our new £2.5 billion military support package, of which at least £200 million will be spent on a major push to produce thousands of military drones for Ukraine, including surveillance, long-range strike and sea drones. Britain was the first country to sign a long-term bilateral security agreement with Ukraine, as we promised in Vilnius. France, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Canada have now followed suit.

Last week, we witnessed time and again that we and our allies share the same conviction—the same determination—that Ukraine will prevail. At the Munich security conference, the Foreign Secretary made the case for a major uplift in European defence production, so that Ukraine gets all the firepower and equipment necessary to prevail. At the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting, it was clear that there are few illusions about what Russia is doing. At the UN, Britain underlined how dangerous Putin’s actions are for the entire world. To mark the second anniversary of Putin’s barbaric invasion, G7 leaders held a joint call with President Zelensky, renewing our pledge to make Russia pay. On Monday evening in Paris, the Foreign Secretary urged European partners to do more to show Putin that we will not let him win. All these efforts are having a real impact: the European Union has agreed a €50 billion multi-year funding package, Germany has doubled its military aid, and in the coming weeks, we expect several more of our partners to sign bilateral security agreements with Ukraine.

We will keep up and step up the pressure, and there is more that we can do. That means ensuring that we use sanctions to stop businesses funding Putin’s war machine, and engaging other countries to do the same; pursuing all lawful routes to use sanctioned Russian assets across the G7 to support Ukraine, and working with our partners to achieve that aim; and, along with those partners, giving Ukraine more of the munitions and equipment that will make the biggest difference. That is more ammunition at speed, more simple-to-use weapon systems such as drones and Soviet-era kit, more support—including training on F-16s—and more of the systems that have the biggest strategic impact, such as Storm Shadow long-range missiles. Through all this, we are sending an unambiguous message of our enduring support for Ukraine. That message was writ large in blue and yellow last Saturday when we projected the words “Slava Ukraini” on to government buildings up and down the land and our embassies worldwide, telling Ukraine, her people and the world that the United Kingdom, our allies and our people are here for them for as long as it takes.

I cannot end without acknowledging the terrible impact of Putin’s despotism on ordinary Russians as well. More than 300,000 Russian soldiers have been killed or wounded in Ukraine, many more than in the decade-long Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, and the war is robbing Russians of resources that should be spent on pensions or teachers. Putin’s Kremlin has systemically repressed the freedoms of its own people over the past two decades. We saw that most recently and tragically with the death of Alexei Navalny earlier this month—a man who fought with incredible courage to expose corruption throughout his life, calling for free and fair politics and holding the Kremlin to account. The British Government are calling for a full and transparent investigation into the circumstances of his death, and the Prime Minister has emphasised that we hold the Russian state accountable for its role in his death. We immediately announced sanctions against six individuals heading up the penal colony where Mr Navalny died following years of mistreatment at the hands of the Russian state. Britain was the first nation to introduce sanctions in response to Mr Navalny’s death, and we are working with international partners to co-ordinate the next steps.

I end by reiterating the UK’s call for Russia to release all those imprisoned on political grounds, including the dual British-Russian national Vladimir Kara-Murza, who is serving a 25-year sentence. The Foreign Secretary will meet his wife and his mother on Friday to express our solidarity and support. As the Foreign Secretary stated in New York, Putin tries to portray this as a battle between Russia and the west, but that is the central lie of this war. Our quarrel is not with the Russian people; our dispute is with those within the Russian state who are promoting their aggressive agenda at home and abroad to serve their own personal interests. Britain stands with all those who have fallen victim to Putin’s aggression and cruelty—in Ukraine, and in Russia.

I commend this statement to the House.

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs 1:33, 28 Chwefror 2024

I thank the Minister for advance sight of his statement, but once again, the shadow Cabinet Minister for international development is updating the House on one of the most important foreign policy issues of our time. I did not get a clear answer yesterday, so I will ask him again: when will the Foreign Secretary take questions from Members on both sides of the House?

Last week marked two years since the start of Putin’s full-scale illegal invasion of Ukraine. The bombed-out cities, the raped civilians, and the children kidnapped to Russia show the barbarity of Putin’s rogue regime. Ukraine’s resilience in the face of hell is testament to the enormous courage of its people. We echo the Minister’s statement that Ukraine’s actions to retake half the territory seized in 2022—pushing back the Black sea fleet—and the unity shown by Europe, have demonstrated the pretence of Putin’s attempt to claim that Russia is winning the war. But we cannot be complacent; the situation requires that our support to Ukraine should remain strong. Labour’s message to Ukraine is simple: whoever is in government, Britain will support Ukraine until it prevails.

We support the further and significant military and financial support that the Conservative Government have announced, as well as the further sanctions. Britain is united on Ukraine, but, as the official Opposition, we have the job of highlighting where more can be done. We commend South Korea on sending more shells to Ukraine than all of Europe combined, but the war must be a wake-up call to all of Europe: there is more that we, along with our allies, must do together.

We welcome the French President bringing world leaders together this week. In that spirit, Labour has outlined plans for a new UK-EU security pact to complement NATO ties and strengthen our whole continent. I ask the Minister what his Government are doing to work more closely with the European Union on our collective security, and whether the Foreign Secretary would attend foreign affairs councils of the European Union if invited to do so. Labour warmly welcomes Sweden’s accession to NATO, which strengthens our whole alliance, but what recent conversations has the Foreign Secretary had with his NATO counterparts regarding a pathway for Ukraine’s membership?

More sanctions are welcome, but enforcement remains the weak link. Last December, an Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation report showed that there had been zero enforcement measures for post-February 2022 sanctions breaches in relation to Russia. Can the Minister confirm whether that is still the case, and can he update the House on the effectiveness of the sanctions being implemented against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus?

One man, Vladimir Putin, holds ultimate responsibility for the death of Alexei Navalny. We welcome the sanctions against six individuals that the UK announced in the wake of Mr Navalny’s death, but they are not enough. Why will the Government not commit to reviewing sanctions on Russia, considering every individual on the full Navalny list? Why will they not back Labour’s calls to support a new international anti-corruption court, and why will they not back our whistleblower reward scheme to crack down on enablers? Following European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s positive statement today, and the passing of 250 days since Labour’s motion to require the Government to bring forward legislation to ensure the seizure and repurposing of Russian state assets, why will the Government not finally turn rhetoric on seizure into action?

Finally, I welcome the Government’s highlighting Vladimir Kara-Murza’s case; tomorrow, I too will meet with his wife, Evgenia Kara-Murza. Over the weekend, there were reports that Members of Parliament were concerned that the Government were not taking the lead on efforts to secure his release from Russian prison. Can the Minister reassure us by outlining the strategy and the steps that Ministers are now taking, before it is too late?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I am very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for the cross-party support that he has given to what I have said. He is quite right to ask piercing questions, but the fact remains that the House is united on this issue, meaning that Britain speaks with one voice and with great effectiveness.

Once again, the right hon. Gentleman chides me for not being the Foreign Secretary. I am not the shadow Cabinet Minister for development—his hon. Friend Lisa Nandy occupies that position. He sees the Foreign Secretary often; I think he is about to see him again, and the Foreign Secretary is an ever-present presence at both ends of the House. Of course, he will be available to Members of this House for questioning in the way that has been discussed.

The right hon. Gentleman expressed very strong support for the further military provisions we have supplied and for the further sanctions. He talked about the wake-up call for Europe, and I very much agree with him. He asked about our working with the European Union and other European countries. He, like me, will have been delighted to see the €50 billion that the EU has allocated over the next four years for non-military activity, and there will be further announcements, we believe, in respect of military support. He will also have seen that, along with the £2.5 billion of military support announced by our Prime Minister, President Macron has announced a similar figure and Germany has very significantly increased the amount of military support it is providing for Ukraine. Clearly, there is great co-ordination and a rising recognition across Europe and throughout NATO that this is a struggle in which all of us are involved.

The right hon. Gentleman asked me about the effectiveness of sanctions. Some 2,000 people or entities have been sanctioned, including 90% of the Russian banking sector. In stepping up sanctions, which are developing all the time, we will be introducing an ability to sanction ships. On the effectiveness of sanctions, Russia would have had an additional $400 billion without the sanctions that have been imposed; money to prosecute the war that it does not now have. Last week, a Turkish company, three Chinese entities and two Belarus entities were sanctioned. Although, as I am sure he would agree, we do not discuss the development of sanctions across the House, I can assure him that this is proving to be very effective and is denying the Russian war machine vital supplies.

Photo of Alicia Kearns Alicia Kearns Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Committee, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories, Chair, Foreign Affairs Sub-Committee on the Overseas Territories

I welcome the deputy Foreign Secretary’s focus on the progress that Ukraine has made against overwhelming odds in the face of one of the biggest militaries in the world. I have just returned from Ukraine with Stewart Malcolm McDonald, and while there, it was my honour to meet some of the soldiers who were gravely injured last summer defending Avdiivka. They shared stories about how those in their units who are still on the frontline and have just had to withdraw were left bleeding out for six to eight hours, sometimes more, because there is not enough ammunition to medevac those who have been hurt. What happened in Avdiivka should shame the international community, not Ukraine, because what it is doing is incredible. Globally, people seem to forget that this is not a Disney movie: the good guys do not just win; it is down to us to make sure that they have the tools to fight. Over the weekend, I put proposals to the Defence Secretary on where I believe we can obtain more ammunition.

Bitterly, it is 80 years since the UK last went to the US to petition it to help defend security in Europe. I urge the deputy Foreign Secretary to help me advise how the UK is battling, as we need to do, some of the pernicious narratives that are arising. First, in the US, people are forgetting the threat of Putin. We must remind them that the threat of Putin is what they are ultimately fighting against. Secondly, in Europe, we see a pernicious narrative about how the Baltics and Nordics will defend themselves in two or three years’ time when Russia rebuilds itself. That cannot be the focus. We have to end Putin now, and we have to stop the ability to invade Ukraine now. What is my right hon. Friend doing to fight these narratives?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee very much for her perceptive and wise comments. To take her last point first, she is of course absolutely right that we are hoping Congress will follow the lead by passing the relevant Bills swiftly, following its return from recess. United States’s support is absolutely vital for Ukraine’s success, as she so rightly says. I am very glad that she has been able to see for herself what is happening. Sometimes, we understate the extent to which Putin is being beaten back. Although the Russian advance into Avdiivka did take place, those 2 km cost between 40,000 and 50,000 Russian deaths.

One fifth of the Black sea fleet has been destroyed, Crimea is no longer safe for the Russian military to operate in and grain supplies are moving across the Black sea. Revenues for Ukraine are at pre-conflict levels, and unlike in year one, this winter the lights stayed on and the bombings by Russia were unable to achieve the same effect as they achieved before. This war is not affordable for Russia: 40% of Government spending is now spent on the war, or 6% of GDP. This is all in pursuit of the worst atrocities—unmatched—that we have seen in Europe over the last 80 years. It is important to point out that Britain has supplied not only £2.5 billion of military matériel, announced by the Prime Minister, to be supplied this year, but 300,000 artillery shells. That is a measure of our determination to ensure that Ukraine has everything we can offer it.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs)

I thank the Minister for prior sight of his statement. I want to put on the record, once again, our steadfast and unyielding support for the people of Ukraine in defending themselves, their homes and their country against Putin’s illegal and aggressive war. I share the concern expressed by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns, that Putin’s plan appears to be to keep the war going until Ukraine’s democratic allies lose interest and somehow let support slip away. That simply cannot be allowed to happen.

I have spoken to colleagues who have just returned from Kyiv—they were attending events to mark the second anniversary of the war—and they report that, at this critical time, Ukraine needs our help now every bit as much as it did on the day Putin attacked. First and foremost, we must guard against complacency. We cannot let the Ukrainian people down simply because we lose interest, because if Ukraine loses, we all lose.

I very much welcome the UK Government’s financial and military support package and the new €50 billion multi-year funding package from the European Union, as well as the fact that Germany has committed to doubling its military aid. I share the Minister’s hope that many of Ukraine’s allies will now follow that lead, most notably the United States. Its prevarication has surely only emboldened Ukraine’s enemies and depressed the Ukrainian people further.

However, there is still so much we can do. I take the Minister’s point about the sanctions regime, but what about using frozen Russian assets to assist Putin’s war victims, most notably the £2 billion sitting in a London bank two years on from the sale of Chelsea football club? As we look ahead, has the FCDO’s atrocity prevention monitoring body been keeping track of breaches of international law and war crimes being committed by Russia in Ukraine? With a marked increase in the targeting of civilians in Kyiv, Odesa, Kharkiv and Lviv, are the UK Government preparing a case for the International Criminal Court against Russia for the deliberate targeting and bombardment of civilians in Ukraine?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I want to thank the hon. Gentleman for his supportive comments. As I said to the shadow Foreign Secretary, the fact that the House speaks with one voice on this matter gives Britain much greater authority in the councils of the world.

The hon. Gentleman warns against complacency, and I hope he will agree that Britain has shown no signs of backsliding on this. No country has done more than the UK. We were the first to supply tanks and long-range missiles, we are assisting in scouring the world for Soviet legacy stock, and Britain recently announced £200 million for drones to be made both in the UK and in Ukraine. I can tell him that the European peace facility, which will provide funding for Ukraine’s armed forces, is progressing. He will also know that Britain and the Nordics together have set up the international fund for Ukraine, which has now raised more than £1 billion. So I hope I can satisfy him that there is no complacency whatsoever.

The hon. Gentleman asked about the Chelsea fund. I can tell him that there is immense frustration that the Chelsea fund is not out and operating at this time. We are doing everything we can, within significant and irritating levels of difficulty, to get it deployed. We will do that as fast as we possibly can. He ended his comments on war crimes. The Government, along with our allies, are doing everything we can to ensure that there is no question of Putin not being held to account when this dreadful conflict is over.

Photo of Dominic Raab Dominic Raab Ceidwadwyr, Esher and Walton

May I welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement? In an interview this week, Ukraine’s national security adviser warned that the Kremlin is better equipped than ever to disrupt elections using artificial intelligence. Can the House get an update on the UK’s readiness to deal with this kind of assault on our democracy?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My right hon. Friend makes a very good point. He is right to flag up the deep concern that exists about that issue. It is not for me to answer his specific point about the steps the Government are taking to protect us from that, but certainly there are other Ministers more directly associated with it who will be able to give him a full update.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Llafur, Exeter

Notwithstanding the Minister’s upbeat tone, in his response to the Chair of the Select Committee, Alicia Kearns, he acknowledged that vital American support is still being held up in Congress because of Trump-supporting Republicans. Does he agree that self-preening British politicians who fawn at Trump do nothing but give succour to Putin and his murderous regime?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

We are doing everything we can to ensure that we play our part in persuading our many friends in Congress to support this measure. The right hon. Gentleman will have seen what the Foreign Secretary did when he was there, and he may well have seen the powerful article that was widely available in the United States. I hope he will conclude from that that we are doing everything we can to pursue the result that he and I both want.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Ceidwadwyr, Maldon

My right hon. Friend will be aware that estimates for the cost of restoration and rebuilding of Ukraine are now reaching $1 trillion. I warmly welcome the Foreign Secretary’s suggestion that we start using frozen Russian assets of up to $350 billion for that purpose now. Can my right hon. Friend say what progress is being made to achieve that?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I hope that in due course we will have more to say on the specific provision my right hon. Friend asks about. He will recall the Ukraine reconstruction conference that took place in London last year, where we announced a number of specific measures to lay the foundation for Ukraine’s long-term future. I hope very much that the £250 million of new capital that was announced then, along with the £500 million UK loan guarantee via the World Bank, is seen as a down payment on that effort. In respect of the use of wider funding, he may be sure that his words are being heard.

Photo of Stewart McDonald Stewart McDonald Scottish National Party, Glasgow South

May I back the comments of Mr Bradshaw? You can back Trump or you can back Ukraine; you cannot do both. No Member of this House should try to ride two horses at once on this conflict.

I am probably one of the few Members of Parliament who have been to Avdiivka, Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, going back over six years. That long line of blood in the loss of Avdiivka two weeks ago can be drawn back to two things: first, weapons being held up vis-à-vis what is going on in Washington in Congress; and secondly—this is another frustration that Ukrainians told me about this weekend when I was there with the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee—the slow yes they get from Europe. When Europe and the west decide to provide certain types of capability, it is a slow yes to providing it, and then even slower again to getting it into Ukraine to be used. That is what will see towns such as Kramatorsk go next.

There is rightly a determination to win, but there is an anxiety in that country that I have not experienced in all the times I have been going for six or seven years. What is the Minister’s plan, not just to keep doing more of what the Government have been doing on weapons, which I commend wholeheartedly, but to turn the slow yes into a fast yes, so that Ukraine can achieve the victory it needs?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

In respect of the first part of what the hon. Gentleman said, he underlines the point that I have repeatedly made today about the importance of the American contribution getting through Congress and arriving in material terms at the front as swiftly as possible. On his second point, we are doing everything we possibly can. The Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister have clearly been in the lead in the support that Europe is giving to Ukraine. We are seeking to persuade in every way all our friends and allies to do the same. I submit to him that in recent months there has been a welcome increase in that support from our European allies, and I hope he will share my pride that the United Kingdom is right at the forefront of those pressing for more and better in the future.

Photo of Bernard Jenkin Bernard Jenkin Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Committee (Commons), Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on National Policy Statements, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government, Chair, Liaison Sub-Committee on Scrutiny of Strategic Thinking in Government

Forgive me, Mr Deputy Speaker, if I flee the Chamber for a 2 o’clock meeting of the Liaison Committee, which I must attend immediately after this question. May I point out to my right hon. Friend the Minister that it was notable how swiftly No. 10 played down President Macron’s suggestion that French or NATO troops might be directly deployed to the conflict in Ukraine? Can that be used to demonstrate how vacillation in Washington will lead to escalation in Europe? Could the European members of NATO perhaps explore some kind of lend-lease arrangement with the United States, as we had in the 1939 to 1940 period?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

First, may I wish my hon. Friend every success in his outing at the Liaison Committee this afternoon? He is right that we need to stretch every sinew to ensure we give as much support as we can in the way he suggests, but I must re-echo the words of the NATO Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, when he said yesterday that there are no plans for NATO combat troops to be on the ground in Ukraine.

Photo of Richard Foord Richard Foord Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Defence)

On behalf of the Liberal Democrats, I add to the consensus that Parliament has expressed so far this afternoon in supporting this statement and the Government’s position on Ukraine. Sky News reported last week that UK-exported equipment may be winding up in Russia, such as drone equipment that has been exported to Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Armenia. Exports of heavy machinery to Kyrgyzstan have grown by 1,100% in the past year. What more will the Government do to keep dual-use goods from ending up in the occupied oblasts of Ukraine, given that end-user declarations are plainly not sufficient?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

First, I thank the hon. and gallant Gentleman for his support. As I have said, it greatly strengthens the British Government’s position that there is that support across the House. The point he makes underlines the importance of moving sanctions along all the time to take account of things we discover that are happening, such as clever ways of breaching sanctions and ways of closing down loopholes. That is very much what we are doing. I mentioned earlier that we are seeking to introduce powers to sanction individual ships. We know that companies are involved in circumventing western sanctions. We take steps all the time to close down those loopholes, and we will continue to do so.

Photo of Mark Pritchard Mark Pritchard Ceidwadwyr, The Wrekin

On those who are circumventing sanctions, perhaps through third countries in central Asia or elsewhere, does the Minister of State believe that the current penalties for breaching sanctions are sufficient? If not, when might the Government bring forward new legislation or take action to increase those penalties? Will the Government make public those who breach sanctions and British companies that try to avoid these sanctions, so that they are shown to have done what they have done, so as to send a signal to other people who might be tempted to do the same thing?

Finally, on Vladimir Kara-Murza, I thank the Government for taking more action than they perhaps previously have. I thank the shadow Foreign Secretary and those on other Benches for the cross-party support. There has been talk of a potential prisoner exchange between the United States Government and the Russian Government. Vladimir Kara-Murza is a joint British and Russian national, but he was living, and his family still live, in Washington DC. He worked there. I urge the Minister—he does not have to make public comments now—to explore the principle of working with the Americans to ensure that, should there be any prisoner swap, Vladimir is part of that exchange.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about Vladimir Kara-Murza. He will know that we have sanctioned 11 individuals, including two individuals involved in Mr Kara-Murza’s earlier poisoning. We do not engage in prisoner exchanges because doing so would put a target on the back of so many British citizens. However, he may rest assured that we are exploring all possible ways of getting Mr Kara-Murza out.

On my right hon. Friend’s comments about sanctions, of course, sanctions are designed to close down support for Putin’s illegal war machine. Whenever we can, we do prosecute people who break our laws, but as I have mentioned to right hon. and hon. Members, we are seeking all the time to ensure that the sanctions regime is as effective and all-engrossing as it can possibly be.

Photo of Sammy Wilson Sammy Wilson Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Treasury), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Brexit)

May I, from the Democratic Unionist party Benches, thank the Government for their work in sending military aid, financial aid, and moral and political support to Ukraine, as well as the efforts to try to keep some of our reluctant allies supplying the goods and military equipment they have promised? The Minister has given an upbeat version of the story in Ukraine at the moment, but the fact is that retreats have been forced on Ukrainians because of the weight of Russian military might. What steps is he taking, first, to stop those who are inadvertently breaking sanctions, which is helping the Russian military, secondly, to release funds which frozen at present but could be used and, thirdly, to encourage other European countries to give the military aid they have promised but has not yet been delivered?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank the right hon. Member and his hon. Friends for their support of the Government’s position. He described my summary of the situation as upbeat. I hope he will accept that it is also candid. I am trying to paint for the House a picture of what is happening on the ground and the steps that the House rightly expects the Government to take to forward the endeavour that has brought the House together so comprehensively.

On the development of sanctions, as I have said, they are becoming increasingly effective and sophisticated as they bear down on loopholes or ways of getting round them. That has denied the Russian war machine some $400 billion, which is something like four years of running costs for this war. I hope the right hon. Member will see that that is the result of the painstaking work that we, along with our allies, are undertaking to make the sanctions regime as successful and effective as possible.

Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Ceidwadwyr, Torbay

Given the vital role of international support for Ukraine, it was good over the weekend to be part of a four-party delegation to Kyiv, showing the House’s united support for the war effort. It is rightly described not as a war between Ukraine and Russia but as a war between Putin and democracy. We all know that if Putin wins, Europe will again go down the dark path we went down nine decades ago.

I welcome the statement. On support, I want to focus on drones and how we have seen them almost transform what happens on the battlefield. What particular discussions are being had about enabling increased production of drones to be used offensively against Russian forces and about technical countermeasures to protect forces that are finding themselves under constant attack?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

I thank my hon. Friend very much for his remarks. He will know that my hon. Friend the Minister for Defence Procurement, who is in his place, launched the drones strategy last Thursday. I hope he agrees that it is highly effective and just what is required given the importance and effectiveness of drones and drone technology. I also thank him for being part of the important four-party delegation, about which I had heard, and for the eloquent way in which he set out why the position and the action we are taking, in what is an existential challenge to our generation, are so important.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

Sky News recently reported on sanctions evasion and things being moved via Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Uzbekistan to support Putin’s war machine, which I suggest is facilitated more often than not by professional enablers right here in the UK through the use of shell companies, limited liability partnerships and Scottish limited partnerships. I have been banging on about that for years. The loopholes evidently still exist and are still being abused, and they come from here. What conversations has the Minister had with Companies House and His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to close those loopholes, shut down those companies and go after the people and the professional enablers who sit behind the sanctions-evading mechanisms being carried out here?

Save The Children estimates that 20,000 children have been forcibly removed from their parents in Ukraine and sent to Russia. What diplomatic efforts are the Government making to reunite those families?

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

On the hon. Lady’s second point, it is absolutely appalling that large numbers of children have been taken in that way. We are in frequent discussions with the International Red Cross to try to ensure that all possible progress is made in respect of their return.

In terms of the examples given of the technical ways in which sanctions can be evaded, the hon. Lady asked me whether conversations are going on about closing down those loopholes. They certainly are, and I think we will see that at each turn of the ratchet we get more effective in closing down loopholes and stopping people evading the sanctions and the will of the House, which is so important in depriving the Putin war machine of the fuel it needs.

Photo of James Wild James Wild Ceidwadwyr, North West Norfolk

My right hon. Friend rightly highlighted the strengthening of NATO, with Finland and Sweden choosing to join since this illegal invasion was launched by Putin. Looking ahead to July’s NATO summit in Washington, will the Government intensify work so that it results in a stronger alliance and more support for Ukraine? Any other outcome only weakens our collective security.

Photo of Andrew Mitchell Andrew Mitchell Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development), Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) (Minister for Development and Africa)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and we will do everything we possibly can.

I end by saying that the key steps we will take will be to strengthen Ukraine in its fight, to ensure that Ukraine wins the war if Putin prolongs it and to lay the foundations for Ukraine’s long-term future. Recently, we have seen British International Investment—the Government’s development finance institution—and the International Financial Corporation from the World Bank joining together to facilitate trade finance. We saw the $500 million UK loan guarantee via the World Bank. We are determined not only to prosecute in every way we can support for Ukraine in this existential struggle, but to look to the future and lay these foundations for Ukraine in the longer term.