President Putin’s forces are carrying out appalling atrocities in Ukraine, with the killings in Bucha just the latest example. The indiscriminate slaughter of innocent civilians disgusts us all. The invasion of Ukraine is illegal and inhumane, a premeditated and wholly unprovoked attack on a sovereign democratic state.
My thoughts are with the Ukrainian people and their President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose defiance, courage and patriotism in the face of foreign aggression is truly inspiring. The historic statement President Zelensky made to the House of Commons on 8 March underlined what is at stake: “The question for us now is to be or not to be”.
The UK and our allies have been clear all along that there will be a severe cost for Russia’s outrageous and evil actions.
The leadership shown by our Prime Minister in his support of Ukraine has been consistently praised by President Zelensky, not least because of the UK’s willingness to provide military equipment to help the people of Ukraine defend themselves. The UK has also played a leading role in encouraging the West to impose the most severe and coordinated package of sanctions Russia has ever faced.
Refugees and Visas
Some 4 million people have fled Ukraine since the beginning of the war. They are victims of savage, indiscriminate and unprovoked aggression. A considerable number of them wish to come to the UK, and the Government has established schemes to enable that to happen. I know that many people are frustrated by the time it is taking to process applications – the Home Secretary has apologised for this, but stressed that processes must be followed to ensure Ukrainian refugees are properly safeguarded.
Ukraine Family Scheme
For those with families in the UK, the Ukraine Family Scheme is open, and extended family members can now apply. Details of the scheme, including eligibility criteria in both English and Ukrainian, can be found here:
If you are outside the UK and hold a valid Ukrainian international passport, you no longer need to provide your biometric information from overseas to apply to the Ukraine Family Scheme. You do need to complete an application online, but you do not need to attend an in-person appointment at a visa application centre.
Visa Application Centres (VACs)
If you do not hold a Ukrainian passport, you need to have your photograph and fingerprints taken at a VAC as part of your application. Children under the age of 5 will not have their fingerprints taken but still need to attend the VAC and have a digital photograph taken. When you attend the VAC you will need to provide your passport, which will be scanned. If you do not have a passport you can still apply but will need to explain why you are unable to provide it.
Please note that the VAC in Kyiv is closed and all UK visa services in Kyiv are suspended.
You can apply at a VAC in any country if you are able to travel safely. VACs are currently operating throughout Europe including: Budapest, Hungary, Chisinau, Moldova, Warsaw, Poland, Bucharest, Romania, Paris, France
“Homes for Ukraine” Sponsorship Scheme
The Homes for Ukraine Sponsorship scheme was announced by Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, on Monday 14 March. The scheme is open to all Ukrainian nationals and residents, who are able to live and work in the UK for up to three years. They also have full access to benefits, health care, employment and other support.
Sponsors can be of any nationality, with any immigration status, provided that they have at least six months’ leave to remain within the UK.
Sponsors have to provide accommodation for a minimum of six months for which they will receive a monthly payment of £350 per family. These payments will be tax-free and will not affect a sponsor’s benefit entitlement or council tax status. Ukrainians coming to the UK will also be able to access the full range of public services – doctors, schools and local authority support.
This scheme has been developed in conjunction with NGOs, local government and civil society organisations and is designed to ensure the best possible assistance to those fleeing Putin’s barbaric war.
The government wishes this scheme to be up and running as soon as possible, so it will initially facilitate sponsorship between known connections. The scheme will be expanded in a phased way, with charities, churches and community groups, to ensure that many more prospective sponsors can be matched with those who require assistance.
The website to register interest has now gone live to register for the scheme: https://homesforukraine.campaign.gov.uk/
Homes for Ukraine Casework FAQs
My office has received many enquiries about the progress of applications. These are being dealt with by my team who are liaising with the Home Office and other partner organisations such as Buckinghamshire Council.
To speed up this process, when you email, please could you ensure you provide your home address, the name of the applicant, and their UKVI reference number. This will help the Home Office to locate their application quickly.
If you are a sponsor and require an update, please email my office at firstname.lastname@example.org but do bear in mind that the Home Office are processing thousands of applications.
I am a sponsor, why can’t we allow people in immediately and then solve the paperwork?
As I am sure you will appreciate, the Home Office is dealing with a large number of applications from Ukrainians at present. Officials are working as fast as possible to issue letters to travel. However, visas are only one part of the process. Buckinghamshire Council is required to complete home inspections as part of its safeguarding duty. Whilst I understand this can be frustrating for applicants, it is absolutely essential to ensure that homes are safe for families arriving from Ukraine.
Other countries are allowing people to arrange places to stay directly, why can we?
It is true that some EU countries have allowed their citizens to make direct contact with Ukrainian families and offer them sanctuary. However, there are cases where this has led to people trying to exploit desperate refugees who are extremely vulnerable. Unfortunately, we are already seeing reports that young women and children are being approached by sex traffickers, organised gangs and abusers. I make no apology for supporting due diligence checks being carried out on applicants to ensure that Ukrainians who have already experienced extreme trauma in their home country are protected from the risk of exploitation in the UK.
More than 1,000 individuals and organisations have now been sanctioned by the UK Government. These include two daughters of Vladimir Putin.
Many others are oligarchs and their family members who are close to the Putin regime. They include Roman Abramovich (owner of Chelsea FC) who is worth more than £9 billion; leading industrialist Oleg Deripaska worth £2 billion; and Alexey Mordaschov, a member of Russia’s richest family, thought to be worth up to £22 billion.
he Government have issued special licences to Chelsea FC to continue its current fixtures and pay staff, however the club will not be able to participate in the transfer market, sell merchandise or sell new tickets to games.
The Government has said that as of April 7, £275bn of Russian foreign currency reserves, representing 60% of its total, have been frozen due to UK and international sanctions.
Economic Crimes Act
A new Economic Crimes Act has received Royal Assent after being passed by the House of Commons and House of Lords. It will ensure the widest range of sanctions can be imposed in as efficient a way as possible, as quickly as possible.
Below are the principal measures in the Act:
Remove the statutory test of ‘appropriateness’ in designating individuals and entities, which will speed up the making of designations.
Remove some of the constraints around designation by description and seek to ensure the Government can designate groups of individuals more quickly, providing maximum flexibility. This will assist in quickly listing members of defined political bodies such as the Russian Duma and Russian Federation Council by body rather than by individual names running to the hundreds.
Ensure the Government can mirror the listings already adopted by our allies via an urgent designation procedure, enabling the Foreign Secretary to swiftly designate individuals, entities and categories of persons designated by our allies. This will facilitate the closest possible international coordination in our sanctions response.
Strip back unnecessary requirements regarding the making and amending of regulations under the Sanctions Act, to streamline the process of establishing or augmenting sanctions regimes. This will enable us to respond more quickly to fast moving developments.
Streamline review and reporting requirements under the Act, ensuring that we can focus our efforts in targeting Putin and his cronies.
Register of Overseas Entities
The Act creates a Register of Overseas Entities which will require anonymous foreign owners of UK property to reveal their real identities to help address risks of money laundering through our property market. Although the register will take time to implement, we expect it to have an immediate dissuasive effect. The Government has:
Shortened the transition period for overseas companies to register their beneficial owners from 18 months to 6 months. This will help ensure we can crack down on money laundering through UK property as quickly as possible, whilst giving people who hold their property in overseas entities for legitimate reasons appropriate time to comply with the new requirements.
Increased criminal penalties for non-compliance from fines of up to £500 per day to up to £2,500 per day. As set out in the existing legislation, other sanctions will include prison sentences of up to 5 years and imposition of financial penalties for non-compliance.
Unexplained Wealth Orders
The Act also makes changes to the Unexplained Wealth Order powers, which will enable our law enforcement agencies to take more effective action against corrupt elites and criminals, compelling them to prove the origins of their funds in the UK. The Government has committed to publishing an annual report on the use of Unexplained Wealth Orders (UWOs).
Even before the new Act was passed, the UK government, working with our allies, had already implemented comprehensive sanctions on Russia, designed to cripple the Putin regime. These include:
Freezing the assets of all Russian banks including VTB, Russia’s largest bank. Co-ordinated with the US, this is the single biggest financial sanction in history.
Preventing Russian companies from borrowing on the UK markets, effectively ending the ability of those companies closest to Putin to raise finance in the UK. This is in addition to banning the Russian state itself from raising funds in the UK
Alongside the US, EU, Japan and Canada, cutting Russia’s Central Bank off from our markets.
Strengthening our trade and export controls against Russia; banning the export of a range of high-end and critical technical equipment and components in sectors including electronics, telecommunications, and aerospace.
Let me be absolutely clear, Putin is spreading lies and disinformation in an attempt to justify his totally illegitimate invasion of Ukraine.
Each and every nation has a sovereign right to choose its own security arrangements - including Ukraine. Countries choose to join NATO; NATO does not choose them. NATO is and has always been a defensive Alliance, which does not threaten Russia or any other country.
NATO remains committed to the dual-track approach of strong defence and meaningful dialogue. In the NATO-Russia Council earlier this year, Allies made clear to Russia that any further aggression that threatens Ukraine's sovereignty or territorial integrity would carry a significant cost. The UK stands up for the right of all countries, including Ukraine, to choose their own destiny; and is clear that the Kremlin has no right to dictate what other sovereign states can or cannot choose.
The UK has, for a number of years now, worked to support Ukraine's security and defence. The UK has trained more than 22,000 members of the Ukrainian army through Operation ORBITAL and, since 2019, assisted Ukraine to build up and sustain a naval capability. In the months prior to the invasion, the UK provided extra support in the form of 2,000 anti-armour missiles, which the Ukrainians are now putting to good use.
The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace announced in the House of Commons that as of 9 March 3615 NLAWs (next generation light anti-tank weapons) had been delivered. The Government is sending additional resources including Javelin missiles. Small arms, body armour and medical supplies have also been sent. You can view the statement here: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2022-03-09/debates/C51B523F-F6CC-4A4E-9259-04019D2B5A2D/UkraineUpdate.
On April 8, the prime minister announced another £100m worth of weapons for Ukraine; the UK will send additional military equipment including Starstreak anti-aircraft missiles and 800 anti-tank missiles. The UK will also send precision munitions "capable of lingering in the sky until directed to their target" and more helmets, body armour, and night vision.
The Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that in addition, the UK will be providing Ukraine with armoured Mastiff vehicles to fight Russia's invasion. Mastiffs are heavily armoured vehicles suitable for road patrols and convoys.
No Fly Zone
I understand some people’s desire to see a no-fly zone instituted above Ukraine. Whilst this might seem like a good idea, as the Defence Secretary has repeatedly pointed out, it would in fact be extremely dangerous. Policing a no-fly zone would almost inevitably mean a NATO jet coming into a combat situation with a Russian jet. This carries the risk of a much bigger crisis, as the Minister for the Armed Forces explained in Parliament: here https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2022-02-25/debates/A1EE729F-F80E-452A-BA2C-49178A52766E/Ukraine#contribution-68BE7C19-04DF-40E1-A01D-FF3F8BEE4177
Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, reaffirmed that a no-fly zone over Ukraine would not help and would instead escalate conflict. In The Sunday Times on 6 March he was quoted as saying “The advice that we as senior military professionals are giving our politicians is to avoid doing things that are tactically ineffective and definitely to avoid doing things that tactically might lead to miscalculation or escalation. The no-fly zone would not help. Most of the shelling is coming from artillery, most of the destruction is coming from artillery, it’s not coming from Russian aircraft. If we were to police a no-fly zone, it means that we probably have to take out Russian defence systems and we would have Nato aircraft in the air alongside Russian aircraft, and then the potential of shooting them down and then that leads to an escalation.”
Possible War Crimes perpetrated by Russia
The images emerging from Ukraine of mass civilian casualties, including children, are harrowing. The UK Government is crystal clear that Putin cannot commit these horrific acts with impunity and, on 2 March, along with 37 of our allies, referred his regime's atrocities in Ukraine to the International Criminal Court at The Hague.
This referral means the ICC Prosecutor can now proceed straight to an investigation. The Ukrainian Government estimates that 1000 civilians have been killed.
UK citizens wishing to join the Ukrainian International Brigade
The FCDO advise against all travel to Ukraine and recommend that British nationals still in Ukraine leave immediately if it is safe to do so. I understand people’s desire to help in this terrible situation, but I would highlight that the Ukrainian Embassy to the UK has set up a special fund to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukraine’s civilian population and to purchase medical and military supplies for Ukraine’s army. You can donate at withukraine.org.
There have been a number of reports of service personnel in the British Armed Forces going AWOL to join the Ukrainian International Brigade. As serving members of the armed forces, they are liable for court-martial. As explained by the Armed Forces minister James Heappey, current service personnel are forbidden from doing this as Russia might try to claim their presence in Ukraine amounted to authorised UK military involvement, which of course it absolutely does not.
More than 1,000 British troops have been made ready to support NATO and allies in the event of a humanitarian crisis. These troops are at readiness in the UK to support a humanitarian response in the region should it be needed.
On 7th March, the Prime Minister announced that the UK was sending an additional £175 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of UK aid pledged this year to approximately £400 million. The UK is also guaranteeing up to $500 million of loans to Ukraine through Multilateral Development Banks.
How You Can Help
I know that many people want to provide concrete help to the thousands of innocent people who are being attacked by Putin’s evil regime. As always, local residents are showing great generosity. Unfortunately, it is not possible for many goods to reach Ukraine, either because they can’t be processed at some of the borders en route, or they may not be suitable for the people in need or there could be difficulties getting access to the towns and villages where help is required most urgently. For that reason, the best way to help is through the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal. They can then ensure that donated money is used to buy exactly what is needed most and get it to the right place at the right time. The Government has promised to match fund donations and has started with a £20 million contribution. Her Majesty The Queen and other members of the Royal Family have made personal donations. Please consider the DEC Appeal to provide your help to the people of Ukraine: you can find details here https://www.dec.org.uk/
If you wish to provide a home for Ukrainian refugees, please see the section above on the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
The UK Government retains a diplomatic presence in Ukraine, but can no longer provide in-person consular assistance due to the deteriorating security situation. If you are a British national in Ukraine and need consular assistance, phone +380 44 490 3660 (open 24 hours, 7 days a week).
More details here: British Embassy Kyiv - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
FCDO rapid deployment teams have been deployed to countries neighbouring Ukraine to assist UK embassies in supporting British nationals who have crossed Ukraine's borders, including Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Moldova.
The Prime Minister has said that nothing is off the table when it comes to the UK's support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity and indeed the desire of its people to live in peace, democracy and free from foreign bullying.
Putin must fail. The UK Government, standing alongside our friends in Ukraine and allies around the world, using all possible means at our disposal, is resolutely focused on ensuring he does.
Having heard directly from President Zelenskyy by video and then four Ukrainian MPs visiting Parliament in person, I can assure you of my personal, wholehearted support for the Ukrainian people at this terrible time.