UKRAINE recently commemorated its declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on 24th August 1991, writes MP Mel Stride.
It has been 18 months since Russia’s illegal invasion, which has resulted in the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
With international support, Ukraine’s determined resistance in the face of such brutality has been heroic and has prevented Putin from annexing far more of its territory. With Russian troops now holding heavily fortified defensive positions, the success of Ukrainian counter offensives has slow. There is a sense that that may be changing but there is a long way to go for Ukraine to regain it’s territory in full.
I am very proud of the government’s response to the invasion. The UK was the first country in Europe to send military aid to Ukraine – the £2.3 billion of military support we provided during 2022 was second only to the United States, and The Prime Minister has pledged to match this amount during 2023.
We have also been Europe’s largest donor of humanitarian aid, initially providing £220 million to help the international response reach 15.8 million people in 2022. An extra £127 million, announced this summer, will help to protect some of the most vulnerable people, including women, children, the elderly and those with disabilities.
I have worked hard to assist 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 have also met locally with Ukrainians who have settled here in Central Devon and with local organisations and constituents who have supported refugees or organised humanitarian aid trips to Ukraine.
I was serving as Chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee when the invasion started and 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 of my work in support of Ukraine – a very small price.
The support the UK has provided and the sanctions we have imposed on Russia have come at a cost – both in terms of the immediate burden of the military assistance (around £4.6 billion) and the impact that sanctions have had on our own economy (for example on businesses that previously imported from or exported to Russia).
But taking a tough stand has been essential. Not only have we helped Ukraine to defend itself, we have shown countries around the world that military aggression will not be tolerated. That we will stand up for freedom.
However long the war lasts we should be there for Ukraine.