Newcastle Labour stands with Ukraine
Newcastle Labour stands with Ukraine

In these dark days, where the spectre of war is once again haunting Europe, my solidarity and thoughts are with Ukraine and all those seeking to protect their hard-won democratic freedoms.

The aggression shown by Russia, an autocratic state with little disregard for human rights, isn’t just a conflict between two far away nations. At heart is an assault on everything we in the UK hold dear – a nation state that people can call their homeland, a government elected by its people and the right to live in peace and prosperity.

The Labour Party helped to create NATO in the aftermath of the Second World War, as part of our international commitment to preventing further bloodshed. NATO has never been more important than now – it is part of our collective defence against tyranny and terror.

We are showing our support in Newcastle by flying the Ukrainian flag, lighting up civic buildings in their national colours of yellow and blue, and uniting to condemn in the strongest possible terms this international outrage.

But more action is needed.

Specifically, Russia must call an immediate cease fire, withdraw all its troops from Ukraine, and commit to a non-aggression treaty to prevent future such outrages.

Until such an agreement is reached, the heaviest sanctions possible should be imposed on Russia – including suspension from the international banking system SWIFT and the freezing of assets of individuals in the Russian government.

Our Government must ban Russia Today, Putin’s propaganda TV channel, from broadcasting in the UK.

Action should be taken against the billionaire Russian oligarchs who channel their riches into UK properties through offshore shell companies.

Political parties must publicly refuse donations from such individuals. The Conservative Party has received more than £2m of Russian money since Boris Johnson came to office. This money should be returned, so there can be no suggestion of Russian interference in our political system.

We know that this conflict has already created a wave of refugees seeking safety. As a City of Sanctuary we will welcome them with open arms, support them and comfort them as they grieve their losses. I therefore also call on the Government to suspend the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament. There is no obvious safe route for Ukrainians to travel legitimately to the UK, and criminalising them for seeking safety is not only morally wrong but against the spirit of the Geneva Convention.

Putin creates division, and hopes for international inaction. In response, Newcastle stands united against his illegal aggression and determined to push for the strongest possible action by the UK Government and NATO to defend our friends in Ukraine.

Nick Forbes, Labour Leader of Newcastle City Council

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