The news coming out of Ukraine is horrendous and getting worse. There is now mounting evidence of war crimes being committed by the Russians: a school being bombed, a hospital shelled, civilians murdered, women raped.
I still have to pinch myself and remind myself that this is happening now, in Europe, in the 21st Century. This is not something I am reading in a history book.
Countries near to Russia that have previously held a neutral stance are applying to join NATO, such as Finland. And who can blame them? I think we should quickly welcome them into our alliance, which was founded by that visionary Labour government of 1945 led by Clement Attlee.
Last week I was appointed to a Statutory Instrument Committee to approve an SI on sanctions against Russia. Often a main act of Parliament is passed but the detailed law is filled in later with a ‘statutory instrument’ which derives from the main act and needs to be approved by the House, usually in an ad hoc committee like the one I was asked to sit on.
MPs have up to 90 minutes to debate the proposals but in this case we did not need that long: we were all in agreement. This particular SI looked at hundreds of categories of luxury goods, all of which were banned from being traded with Russia. The thinking is simple: stop the billionaire oligarchs leading their lives of luxury and they will pressure Putin to back off.
I made the point that we should have had tough sanctions after the Salisbury attack, or after the murder of Alexander Litvinenko – but it’s better late than never.
Meanwhile in Cheshire West & Chester we are doing our bit, led by the brilliant Cllr Samantha Dixon. Families are coming forward to offer their homes to refugees, the council is efficiently checking all of these so they’re ready as soon as the guests arrive. The churches, coordinated in Chester by Canon Jane Brooke of the Cathedral, and community groups like Share and City of Sanctuary are all pulling together with practical support. We now have a drop-in centre for Ukrainian guests to meet up and make new support networks.
Schools are providing extra places, and one school has offered its premises for a Saturday school so that Ukrainian children can also continue their Ukrainian education.
We do not know how long Ukraine will need our support. It could be a long haul – we must be steadfast in that support at home and abroad.