From sanctions to blacklisting and collecting evidence of war crimes, there is much the UK can do to assist Ukraine
During his remarkable address to members of both Houses, President Volodymyr Zelensky urged us to use every possible means to help Ukrainians defend their sovereignty and to treat Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime as the terrorist state it has become.
Zelensky was grateful for our humanitarian aid – at £200m the UK has, to date, provided more than any other nation. But he left us in no doubt that, however welcome, humanitarian relief will not enable his country to survive this threat to its very existence.
We must exercise the wisdom of Solomon and not raise unreal expectations which go beyond our commitment to help Ukraine defend itself; Nato must not be drawn into the intensification of the conflict. The UK has been justified in providing Ukraine’s armed forces with the ability to fight for their freedom. They need more anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons.
We should be blacklisting Russia as a terrorist state
But there are other steps we can take in responding to the remarkable courage of Zelensky and his people. After a hesitant start to the imposition of sanctions it is good to see the United Kingdom and United States moving together to ban Russian oil. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit estimates this will cost Putin £5bn this year. In targeting revenues that sustain Putin’s war machine, UK consumers will pay a price too in significantly higher fuel bills and inflation, and an estimated living standards loss of £2,500 per household. So there will be some pain and sacrifice – but the shameful atrocities being committed against Ukrainians keep that in proper perspective.
Germany has moved a long way in committing to meet its two per cent contribution to Nato and joining in the economic war against Putin. It could do more. By resisting attempts to add Sberbank to a list of Russian financial institutions cut off from the Swift payments system, and his opposition to sanctions targeting the energy sector, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz risks weakening the united front which has emerged thus far.
We can also do more to hold Putin to account. It was good to see Gordon Brown adding his voice to the calls for the creation of a judicial mechanism which, like Nuremberg, can bring to justice those responsible for war crimes.
We are fortunate that a celebrated British lawyer, Karim Khan QC, is prosecutor of the International Criminal Court. Lawyers and other parliamentarians – including Robert Buckland, Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws, Lord Carlile and myself – have written to him encouraging the ICC to urgently assess the many reports of atrocities and war crimes which it has received.
The Foreign and Commonwealth and Development Office and the Ministry of Justice should use all their resources to demonstrate that the wheels of justice are turning and that Putin and senior Kremlin leaders are on notice that they will be tried for launching an illegal invasion and war against Ukraine. We should be collecting evidence and helping with the interviewing of captured Russian prisoners of war.
And not just individuals. We should be blacklisting Russia as a terrorist state – which has unleashed terror on civilians, including the use of cluster bombs on civilian populations. The Financial Action Task Force – expanded in 2001 to counter terrorist financing and money laundering – should be involved. And CoCom – the Coordinating Committee for Multilateral Export Controls, utilised by the Western Bloc during the Cold War to control export of dual use items (such as semiconductors) should be reactivated to ensure a coherent global response. Terrorist states should not have favoured nation status and their membership of the World Trade Organization should be suspended.
The first casualty in any war is truth. We have powerful engines for communications and should never underestimate the role of the BBC and social media in sustaining morale and enabling the Ukrainian people to see and hear truthful news reports. We must stand with Zelensky and Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Lord Alton of Liverpool is a Crossbench peer.
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