YESTERDAY, Ukraine commemorated its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. This year, of course, was like no other.
Since the brutal and unjustifiable invasion by Russia we have seen the largest refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Around seven million people have fled the country, with husbands separated from wives, and parents separated from children, as some stay to fight and others flee to safety.
Last month I met Iryna Klymovych, a refugee who has settled with her two children in Okehampton while her husband has stayed in Ukraine. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult their separation has been. In May I met Devon for Ukraine Director Tanya Larsen, who lives in Silverton. She was breathing a sigh of relief that her parents had managed to escape Ukraine through the Mariupol corridor.
Each family has its own story and I am immensely proud that the UK has welcomed more than 104,000 Ukrainians under the Ukraine Family Scheme and Homes for Ukraine Scheme. Visa applications continue to be issued, and this figure may double. Thank you to everyone in Central Devon who has welcomed a family into their home.
I have assisted with the visa applications for around two-thirds of the refugees who have come to our constituency, helping to get missing documents uploaded, organising visa applications within the same family to be linked together, passing on ‘permission to travel’ letters and speaking to Home Office caseworkers when delays have occurred.
I am also proud that the UK was the first country to provide Ukraine with weapons and military equipment, that our government has been Europe’s largest humanitarian donor (providing over £400 million in aid), and that we have been at the forefront of international sanctions. As Chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee I have been vocal about imposing the strongest possible measures on Putin’s regime and have liaised with my opposite numbers in the Ukrainian and German parliaments over the effectiveness of different sanctions. I have been sanctioned personally by the Kremlin as a result.
A tough stand is essential not just because of the appalling impact the war has had on Ukraine but because of the devastation it has caused around the world. The UN has estimated that more than 70 million people from the world’s poorest countries will be forced into severe poverty due to higher energy and food prices.
Despite the desperate situation, there is cause for hope. Russia is failing to replenish troop losses, struggling to repair military vehicles and aircraft because of sanctions on vital parts, and its economy is heading for the deepest recession since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Meanwhile, the UK and our international partners are stepping up the supply of weapons and equipment. For example, we will be sending the first M270 multiple-launch long-range rocket systems, along with M31A1 munitions, to Ukraine in the coming weeks.
However long the war lasts, Central Devon and the UK stands with Ukraine.