Ukraine - Statement

– in the House of Lords am 5:20 pm ar 29 Chwefror 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

The following Statement was made in the House of Commons on Wednesday 28 February.

“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 multiyear 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 F16s—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 Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Equalities and Women's Issues), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords 5:24, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, the barbarity of Putin’s regime is evidenced by Ukraine’s bombed-out cities, the raped civilians and the children kidnapped to Russia. Ukraine’s resistance in the two years since Putin’s full-scale illegal invasion is testament to the courage of its people. In two years Ukraine has retaken half the territory seized in 2022 and pushed back Russia’s Black Sea fleet—demonstrating the pretence of Putin’s attempt to claim that Russia is winning the war.

As Andrew Mitchell said yesterday,

“we understate the extent to which Putin is being beaten back”.

Although the Russian advance into Avdiivka did take place, those two kilometres cost between 40,000 and 50,000 Russian deaths.

Our message—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 Government have announced, 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. The fact that South Korea is sending more shells to Ukraine than the whole of Europe combined is telling.

We also welcome the French President bringing world leaders together this week. Yesterday, Minister Mitchell stressed that the

“United States’s support is absolutely vital for Ukraine’s success”.

He also said he was

“hoping Congress will follow the lead by passing the relevant Bills swiftly, following its return from recess.”—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/24; col. 346.]

I hope the noble Lord can reassure us on that point this evening.

This morning, the noble Lord reassured the House that the Government are working closely with the European Union on our collective security. As David Lammy said yesterday,

“Labour has outlined plans for a new UK-EU security pact to complement NATO ties and strengthen our whole continent”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/24; col. 344.]

Labour very much 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?

We welcome the sanctions against six individuals that the UK announced in the wake of Mr Navalny’s death. Yesterday, in response to David Lammy’s concern on the range and enforcement of sanctions, Andrew Mitchell said that

“we will be introducing an ability to sanction ships”.

What is the timetable for this?

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. In response to that point, Andrew Mitchell said:

“Last week, a Turkish company, three Chinese entities and two Belarus entities were sanctioned”,—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/24; cols. 345-46.]

but why not consider every individual on the full Navalny list? Why not support a new international anti-corruption court? Why not support Labour’s whistleblowing rewards scheme to crack down on enablers?

This morning I raised with the Minister yesterday’s statement by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on using interest on frozen Russian state assets. Yesterday Andrew Mitchell said:

“I hope that in due course we will have more to say on the specific provision”.

I suspect that I will not get much more out of the noble Lord tonight, but can he give us a bit more detail on the timeframe for this? These are urgent questions and resources are urgently needed.

Yesterday Brendan O’Hara raised the £2 billion from the sale of Chelsea. Andrew Mitchell said 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”.—[Official Report, Commons, 28/2/24; col. 348.]

That money is urgently needed to support people in Ukraine. I hope the noble Lord can be a little more reassuring tonight that we will resolve this matter as speedily as possible.

What support are we giving to the ICC in preparing a case against Russia for deliberately targeting and bombarding civilians? This is important in holding to account those responsible for committing these crimes.

Finally, I welcome the Government highlighting the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza. I know that my right honourable friend David Lammy met his wife today. Can the Minister give us an update on the case and what we are doing? Can he also reassure us that there will not be any backtracking on this and that we are taking specific steps? I hope the Minister can update us on that.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Democratiaid Rhyddfrydol

My Lords, I thank the Minister for bringing this Statement to this House for us to address this evening.

As the noble Lord, Lord Collins, made clear, we are agreed across all parties in our support for the Government and for Ukraine against the aggression of President Putin. We are two years on, and I remember the start of the war. At the very start, I was linked to a vice-president of Ukraine as she was from a sister party. On WhatsApp she sent me a list of military hardware that was urgently needed. I have never before received such a request—certainly not weapons and body armour—on WhatsApp. I forwarded this shopping list to the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad, and am grateful that, as ever, he took it forward. Fortunately, I have not received any further military shopping lists, and direct and appropriate liaison is clearly happening with the UK Government, but this showed the desperate situation Ukraine found itself in.

Where are we, two years on? Putin will not have anticipated this, but they are well dug in in the east of Ukraine. Having been at the UN for a parliamentary hearing last week, I noted unanimity on needing a ceasefire in Gaza but less global support for Ukraine. We know that the increase in food and fertiliser prices caused by the invasion has negatively affected countries around the world. We know that there are more populist and authoritarian regimes around the world watching Russian actions with interest—see the actions of Venezuela against Guyana. China will be watching too.

This makes it even more important that we assist Ukraine and make every effort to ensure that Putin is not allowed to succeed. Can the Minister tell us what discussions we are having internationally to help further isolate Russia, in particular with our Commonwealth partner India, which has been taking oil from Russia?

Sanctions have been used to try to have a major effect on the Russian economy. At first, they seemed to have an effect; then the Russian economy seemed to bounce back. What is the Government’s assessment of whether, with oil prices where they are, these sanctions will bite harder and what do the Government anticipate within the Russian economy? Are we nearer in terms of redirecting funds from oligarchs to support Ukraine, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Collins?

President Zelensky has flagged a lack of ammunition. How are allies scaling up production? What encouragement can we give to the US Congress to move things forward as far as the United States, a key ally, is concerned?

Russia has regressed dramatically in terms of human rights in recent times. The murder of Alexei Navalny showed that Putin, ahead of elections where he already has total control, clearly does not care what the world thinks but sends the warning that he will kill opponents, whether in his prisons or in other parts of the world. Are we effectively gathering material to take to the International Criminal Court on these crimes and others, particularly those against women and girls, in Ukraine?

I hope that our security agencies are focused, especially prior to the elections here and in the US, Russia and elsewhere, on threats emanating from Russia. No doubt the Minister will not answer that directly, but nevertheless I hope that that is the case. We have a Foreign Secretary who has experience on the world stage. I hope that we are using those skills and experience effectively, with the rise of global tensions in Ukraine and the Middle East. He may have only a few months in his role, but this could not be a more key time. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover. It is nice to see her back in our trilateral conversations, debates and discussions. I thank them specifically for the strong support. We have previously talked about the importance of acting as one, and that has been reflected in terms of our diplomacy. The noble Baroness mentioned my noble friend Lord Cameron. She herself served in the Government under my noble friend. I agree with her that, not just on Ukraine but on many global issues, including the Middle East, the ability to work with someone who has the stature, experience and insight that my noble friend the Foreign Secretary brings to this brief is extremely important.

I recall the text the noble Baroness referred to. It reflects the strength of support we have given Ukraine and its affection for and appreciation of the United Kingdom. Yesterday, I met the Ukrainian ambassador in Geneva. She articulated that the friend that stands out most among all in the top category—and there are many friends that Ukraine can count on—and is seen in that light is the United Kingdom. Why? Because we were there not just when the shocking events of two years ago happened but when Crimea was invaded and annexed, and we have been consistent in the military support we have provided through Operation Orbital.

The noble Baroness asked specifically about military, humanitarian and fiscal support. On the munitions point, we have provided a further contribution. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that we are working with all key partners. My noble friend the Foreign Secretary attended the conference in Paris where there was representation at senior level from over 27 countries to ensure strong co-ordination with partners in support of Ukraine.

I turn to some of the specific questions that have been asked. First and foremost is the issue of sanctions, which both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord referred to. The UK continues to sanction individuals, including the sanctions that we have recently announced. There are now 2,000 individuals and entities under the Russian sanctions regime, over 1,700 of which have been sanctioned since the full-scale invasion. On 22 February, the UK announced more than 50 new sanctions to further diminish Russia’s capacity and weapons arsenal.

I note what the noble Baroness said about the economy of Russia, but we have seen some real challenge there. Even today, Russia continues to announce the need for more people to be recruited into its army because the cost to the country has been immense, not just to its economy, with £400 billion denied to its war chest, but to its people. I am sure I speak for the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, and indeed all of your Lordships’ House, when I say that our fight is not with the Russian people.

The shocking nature of the death of Alexei Navalny, which was referred to by both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, was the focus of my speech yesterday at the Human Rights Council. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Collins, that, on the case of Vladimir Kara-Murza, there was a specific call at the Human Rights Council, which I echoed, that Russia should do the right thing immediately and unconditionally release this British citizen. We will continue not just to advocate for but to demand the release of this British citizen, to ensure that families can be reunited. In the case of Alexei Navalny, we welcome the news that, finally, his remains have been released to his family. As I understand it, and as noble Lords will know, the funeral will take place tomorrow.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord raised the issue of sanctions enforcement. The Government have rightly committed £50 million to support our new economic deterrence initiative, which strengthens our diplomatic and economic tools. We have acted specifically, as I have said before, in sanctioning particular companies: in August 2023, a UK company was fined £1 million in relation to unlicensed goods in breach of Russian sanctions.

I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Collins, says. We need to remain vigilant to ensure that, where there are loopholes and sanctions are being circumvented, whether at home or abroad, we must seek to act. However, I repeat the point that I know the noble Baroness and the noble Lord appreciate: the most effective way to prevent sanctions circumvention is to act in unison with our partners in the United States and the European Union.

The noble Lord and the noble Baroness raised the issue of US funding. I assure both of them that we have been at the forefront of imploring the US to continue its support for Ukraine. We welcome the US Senate’s passing of the national security supplemental Bill, and it is noticeable that that was with a significant majority. We hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Collins, mentioned, that the House of Representatives will pass the Bill swiftly when it returns from recess. My right honourable friend in the other place said that US support is vital, and I agree with him. Equally important is that our other allies, including those in the European Union and within NATO, step up to see what further support they can give to Ukraine.

The noble Lord asked about Chelsea funds. I share his frustration every time I see a sanctions debate or SI, but work is being done to make sure that we focus on that. The noble Lord will appreciate the need to be legally watertight on whatever actions we take, but we are working closely with our colleagues in His Majesty’s Treasury to ensure that we can move forward in a way that ensures that those current frozen funds are utilised in support of Ukraine.

I know we are discussing Ukraine at regular and short intervals, and rightly so. That shows the continuing support of your Lordships’ House, as demonstrated today, and, equally importantly, the dynamic nature of this ongoing war against Ukraine. It is therefore vital that we support some of the initiatives of countries that have sought to engage directly. We were delighted that the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was able to visit Kyiv last year, which the UK had encouraged, and to announce humanitarian support. We note that President Zelensky has been visiting that region recently, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It is important to widen the scope of support for Ukraine, and we will continue to do so.

Photo of Lord Ricketts Lord Ricketts Chair, European Affairs Committee, Chair, European Affairs Committee 5:44, 29 Chwefror 2024

My Lords, I welcome the Statement and the leadership role the Government have played in supporting Ukraine from the very beginning. I also welcomed this week the fact that the final obstacles to Sweden joining NATO have been cleared, which is another powerful strengthening of the alliance as a result of Putin’s invasion.

The House of Lords European Affairs Committee, which I have the privilege to chair, published a report a couple of weeks ago on the impact of the invasion of Ukraine on EU-UK relations. We took a lot of evidence about sanctions policy and the seizure of assets, which is, frankly, the next big opportunity to help support the financing of the reconstruction of Ukraine. The Foreign Secretary, when he gave evidence, said that there is a legal route to the seizure of assets. As has been mentioned, the EU is looking at the seizure of windfall profits of assets—although the real game-changer would be to get at the underlying assets themselves. It is important that we work in co-operation. I wonder whether I could press the Minister a bit further. Can he assure us that we are working closely with the EU and the US, with the aim of getting to a place where we can start doing this quickly, because the needs in Ukraine are obviously very pressing?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his insights. He brings great experience to our discussion. I agree with him about the importance of co-ordination, and categorically reassure him that we are doing just that. Earlier this afternoon, I stated to your Lordships’ House that we are dealing with the key agencies and institutions involved with the assets. The noble Lord will know that Europe works differently from the United Kingdom. As previously announced, we have about £8 billion of assets here in the United Kingdom. In ensuring that the intertest of those assets is utilised, we are very much seized of the work that the European Union is doing and how that might be replicated in the context of the United Kingdom. I add again the important caveat that, in doing so, we need to ensure that, whatever action we take, it is legally robust.

Photo of Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Ceidwadwyr

My Lords, does my noble friend share the concern I feel after the reports of Putin’s state of the nation speech today, in which he claims that he has no intention of invading Europe but does not exclude the option of using nuclear weapons? That behoves some response from His Majesty’s Government. How does my noble friend expect the Government to respond to that scenario?

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, nothing surprises or shocks us in what Mr Putin articulates. It is not the first time he has made such comments. It is irresponsible and it is wrong. The use, or threatened use, of such weapons is, frankly, quite deplorable. Whether he is saying this with intent or as a shock tactic, I cannot speculate. I am sure I speak for everyone in your Lordships’ House when I say that the last thing anyone wants to hear right now are threats to use such weapons.

What we have seen over the years, from the Cold War and the subsequent relationships that developed positively during Mr Gorbachev’s era, is a recognition that the deterrent value of those weapons was clear. We pursued them in that light. Mr Putin could reflect on his own history, and that of Russia, to see that the only way forward is to ensure that he pulls back now, brings about peace on the continent, and stops the war on Ukraine.

Photo of Lord Berkeley Lord Berkeley Llafur

My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on the effort that he and the Government are making to help Ukraine. In addition to what we have been so rightly doing to help Ukraine, we have to recognise the damage and disaster that has been caused in many parts of the country, and the fact that an awful lot of voluntary work is going on in this country to try to provide support. I will name just two organisations, which I happen to be involved with. The first is the Global Ukraine Rail Task Force, which tries to raise money in Europe, here in the UK and in the United States. Network Rail has contributed to it. It has been very helpful to keep the railways going, because they are absolutely essential in Ukraine for passengers and freight—it is a very big country.

It is difficult to give the Ukrainians bits of second-hand railway goods because we have different gauges and everything, but they have worked out that they want second-hand buses and coaches and old railway equipment, which they can use as shelters, medical centres, play areas and things like that, to try to replace what has been damaged. Can the Minister encourage the railway and bus companies to look into sending second-hand equipment that is no longer used to Ukraine to help it rebuild its communities, in addition to resisting all this horrible bombing?

There is effectively a war in Europe, and one problem that I hope the Minister can deal with is that it is very difficult to get things across frontiers and to get some of the permissions that are needed to get into Ukraine. Anything he can do to help will enable organisations like SHAP—the Swindon Humanitarian Aid Partnership —to get this equipment there and try to provide voluntary support for the people in Ukraine whose buildings have been destroyed. I hope the Minister can do something on that.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I appreciate the noble Lord’s valuable insights from transport. He touched on an important issue: it is about not just the transport system but the recreational element. A whole generation of children in Ukraine is impacted, so what more can be added?

I recall my first visit to Poland when the war started. There were some valuable examples of what civil society and community groups were doing. The noble Lord may recall that the structures of the international system, particularly the UN bodies, were not equipped or set up to deal with the kind of conflict we were seeing in Ukraine. No one desired such a conflict to happen. While that was being stood up, it was the community groups that were providing vital links. I remember a Polish charity group going in and saying, “We load up our minibus, we take whatever we can, we go as far as we can and then we unload where we can”. That reflected the spirit of community, which is very much in evidence here in the United Kingdom.

Of course I will look into this. There are, of course, challenges of security, and there remain real concerns with, and challenges in, attempts at reconstruction within Ukraine, which the UK has made. As we heard earlier from my noble friend, Mr Putin leaves no stone unturned not just to threaten but to act, as he has done with missiles recently in Kyiv. No part of Ukraine is safe from Mr Putin’s war machinery. But of course we remain committed, which is why we hosted the recovery and reconstruction conference. One hopes this dreadful war is brought to an end by Russia stopping it and Ukraine again being an independent sovereign state with all its territory. As this evolves, we can look to see how we can best support transport infrastructure and explore recreational support for the next generation of Ukrainians as well.

Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

My Lords, in the context of the terrible death of Alexei Navalny, the Minister referred to Vladimir Kara-Murza. I also had the opportunity to meet with his wife, Evgenia, and I know how much she appreciates what the British Government have done to champion her husband’s cause. Given what the Minister said about having raised this at the Human Rights Council in the United Nations as recently as in the last few days, does he have a plan for what more can now be done at every opportunity to raise his plight?

In the context of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Collins, about sanctions, and specifically the point Brendan O’Hara made yesterday in the Commons about Chelsea Football Club, I have a Written Question today specifically about that. I hope that, when the Minister responds to that, he might also deal with the amendment I moved to the economic crime Bill that the Government accepted in spirit and said they would bring forward in secondary legislation. How is that going? Are we able to reclaim as much as we can from the oligarchs who funded, aided and abetted so much of what Putin has done in Ukraine?

Building on the Minister’s patience earlier today when he was good enough to meet with the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, Amal Clooney and myself to talk about accountability in the context of the Yazidis, may I ask him about the international crime of aggression? I recently met Philippe Sands, the author of the wonderful book East West Street, which is based in Lviv and looks back at the relationship between his family and that of Raphael Lemkin who, after all, authored the genocide convention. At our discussion, we heard more from the Ukrainian authorities about the international tribunal that is needed to try the crime of aggression. The British Government have insisted in the meantime that there should be a hybrid tribunal. This does not seem to be going anywhere fast. We all want to see those responsible held to account. Where are we up to in resolving that issue? I said to the Minister earlier on that we all regard him as having the patience of a saint; I am extremely grateful to him for the way in which he engages on these questions.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

Perhaps I could extend that patience to the great Lady Ahmad as well; she has endured much over the years.

Picking up on the specific points, I raised the case directly at the Human Rights Council, and rightly so. I assure the noble Lord that we will do so not just through international for a but with those countries that have direct influence over Russia. It is important that we leverage that; we will do, and are doing, so. Of course, we retain our diplomatic presence in Moscow. We will use that bilateral level of engagement at a diplomatic level through the ambassador and his team to ensure that this remains very much at the top of our priority list in terms of what we demand from Russia.

The noble Lord talked about accountability. I was conscious of time earlier but I assure both the noble Lord, Lord Collins, and the noble Baroness, Lady Northover—as well as the noble Lord, Lord Alton —that we are fully engaged on the issue of accountability directly with Ukraine. I work closely with the prosecutor-general on the specific requirements; I know that the Attorney-General of the United Kingdom is also fully engaged on the support that Ukraine needs. We work closely with the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, Karim Khan. Again, I commend his efforts and real courage when he issued those arrest warrants against the Commissioner for Children as well as the Russian President; that was an important step forward. We are working in a very collaborative way there.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, asked about the international tribunal. Of course, we are aware. There are three or four different versions of that, including derivatives thereof. I assure the noble Lord that I recently asked for a summary of the pros and cons of each approach. We understand the call that Ukraine has made and we want to work with international partners to ensure that the model presented is something that is consistent with, and complementary to, existing accountability measures. At the same time, we fully understand that this crime should be investigated and the perpetrators brought to account.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Crossbench

My Lords, the Minister speaks of working with our international partners—I absolutely endorse that—but, in response to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, he reiterated his view that one must not give in to Russian threats, which we have heard before. Not giving in to Russian threats also involves working closely with partners to accept that we need to look forward and work co-operatively. Can he tell us why His Majesty’s Government dismissed within minutes the suggestion from President Macron of France that we will perhaps need to do more to confront Russia in Europe and may well need to defend ourselves? Why did the Government dismiss this so quickly? The only leadership that we have seen in Europe recently has come from France. I am afraid to say that, in Germany—about which I know quite a lot—the Zeitenwende policy has not delivered the pivot that we expected to see. I am extremely sorry but I wonder whether the Minister might reflect that, when you rule out options so fast, you also run out of options. That is the risk you face.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

My Lords, I am afraid that I have to disagree with the noble Baroness on that point. We work very closely with France and all our European allies. The noble Lord, Lord Ricketts, alluded earlier to the NATO membership of Sweden; we used every opportunity to achieve that. I said to my noble friend Lady Fall earlier that I knew that I was going to meet the Hungarian Foreign Minister, and our brush-by in India was the moment to endorse the need for Hungary to act and expedite direct engagement with Sweden and also its accession to NATO.

The United Kingdom has shown nothing but leadership on this agenda, so I am surprised by the noble Baroness’s call. Of course we work closely with France; we evaluate what our allies will say and ensure that we move together on this. If the noble Baroness were to ask the Russians directly—not that I expect that she would be able to—she would find that, quite often, when they challenge or attack the West, there are two countries in Europe at the forefront, both beginning with “U”: one is Ukraine, directly, and the other is the United Kingdom.

Photo of Baroness Falkner of Margravine Baroness Falkner of Margravine Crossbench

I will come back to the Minister, since we still have a few minutes. Perhaps he will recall that it was the United Kingdom that was a signatory to the Budapest memorandum that gave security guarantees to Crimea. It was also the United Kingdom that stood idly by, that February, exactly 10 years ago, as Russia invaded Crimea. I suggest that a dose of humility might come handy occasionally.

Photo of Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon Minister of State (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

I am afraid that, if you look at the history of Crimea, and at 2015, you find that if there has been one country that has stood consistently with Ukraine it is the United Kingdom. I am the first to accept that humility is an endearing aspect of anyone’s character, but I am sure that, on this occasion, the noble Baroness will find herself in a minority view.

The United Kingdom has been consistent. Who provided military support and training to Ukraine? The United Kingdom. That started in 2015, and has continued since then. Who was the first to point out that the Russian invasion was imminent? Two countries—the United States and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom has led on economic support, military support and humanitarian support. We have 140,000 Ukrainians in the United Kingdom. When we say “Slava Ukraini”, we mean it, and not just with words: we walk the walk, talk the talk and deliver.

House adjourned at 6.02 pm.