Donbass War Dominates PMQs Under Gaze of Ukrainian Ambassador
12:30 GMT 02.03.2022 (Updated: 13:54 GMT 02.03.2022)
Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko, present in the gallery of the House of Commons, got a standing ovation from MPs after speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle announced him. Hoyle waived the rule against applause in the house.
The Conflict in Ukraine has dominated debate at Prime Minister's Questions — under the watchful eye of the Ukrainian ambassador.
"Putin has gravely miscalculated in his abhorrent assault on a sovereign nation," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in opening the debate. "We join with every nation in telling Putin to turn his tanks around."
The PM said the UK would continue to respond with sanctions and arms supplies to Ukraine.
Opposition Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer used his questions to demand Russian businesspeople in the UK be singled out and their property sequestered.
"This house and this country stand united in our support for the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression," he said.
Starmer turned to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, owner of Chelsea football club, asking "why on earth isn't he" under sanctions.
"The vice is tightening on the Putin regime, and will continue to tighten," Jonson said, saying both President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had been sanctioned personally.
Starmer claimed Russian businessmen had "dipped their hands in the blood of Putin's war", and alleged one of whom, Vladimir Chernukhin, owned two flats in Westminster "five minutes from this house".
Johnson assured that the new Economic Crime Bill would single out Russian ownership of property and businesses in the UK. Starmer retorted that the register would not come into force until a year and a half after the legislation is passed.
"Why are we giving Putin's cronies 18 months to quietly launder their money out of the UK and into tax havens," Starmer claimed.
"We led the way on SWIFT, we led the way on Aeroflot," Johnson shot back, adding "all those who have assets linked to the Putin regime" would soon be named and shamed.
"These are war crimes happening in Europe right now. Putin is a war criminal," Scottish National Party Westminster leader Ian Blackford said, demanding that the Russian president be tried for the "crime of aggression".
Johnson claimed the kinds of munitions "dropped on civilians" already constituted a "war crime", and noted that the International Criminal Court in The Hague had already launched an investigation.
“We’re not guaranteeing the territorial integrity of Ukraine” as the Budapest treaty guaranteed Labour Chris Bryant said, pointing out that dozens of former MPs had died fighting in previous wars, he said to defend Belgium and Poland.
“The consequences of direct conflict with Russia would be difficult to control,” Johnson cautioned.
Other MPs prompted the PM to recall the Second World War struggle against fascism — while ignoring the Soviet Union's pivotal role in defeating Hitler and his European allies.
Some of the loudest sabre-rattling has come from Pro-European Union MPs in the ruling Conservative party, including Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. Fellow Remainer Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, called this week for NATO to impose a "no fly zone" over Ukraine in a direct act of war with Russia, while on Tuesday Tom Tugendhat tweeted his support for the 'Kyiv Declaration' calling for Western-enforced "safe zones" and more supplies of arms to the Ukrainian forces in breach of international law.