It is so important that we come together now as a City. In watching the atrocities unfold, we can feel so helpless, but when we come together, stand together and send our solidarity to the people of Ukraine together, we too play our part in calling for this war to end and justice for the Ukrainian people. As a Human Rights City and a City of Sanctuary, I hope you will be able to join me on Saturday 5th March in St Helen’s Square at 2.30pm as York Stands With Ukraine.
My latest column for York Press this week is on the atrocities happening in Ukraine which you can read below:
The rockets over Ukraine sent shockwaves around the world as Russia declared their invasion of the Ukraine; all the more personal as friends and family of York residents are now trapped in this war-torn land. One minute full of the hopes we all share, the next in bunkers with gunfire and missiles raining down around them.
If Afghanistan was not sufficient to warn the West of their disinterest and distraction from foreign policy, this certainly has. As Putin targeted his anger at Ukraine, we now have a war in Europe.
With 10,000s of Russian soldiers rolling into Ukraine north, east and south, Ukraine is doing all it can to defend its land. They have disrupted Putin’s advances. It is bloody; casualty rates are soaring; we are watching the tragedy of these horrific events unfold. I am attending every briefing I can, reading every paper available.
We cannot stand by aghast, be commentators of some distant tragedy or even muse over our peaceful ideals, although they must be our destination; we must act and act fast.
Putin is not alone. Across this planet, there are dangerous actors, abusing their power and, through their hate, destroying the futures of men and women, land and country. We live on a volatile planet with instability and violence, injustice and brokenness. It is our duty to use our time wisely and to stand up to these tyrants to protect the lives of others. We must Stand with Ukraine.
In Russia, protestors are brave and resolute against Putin.
The isolation of dictators must never be allowed again. They hide in the shadows of their own warped ideologies and distortions. President Putin’s mis-information industry had already gone global; it was no secret that he had long been out of step with truth. His dirty gas and industries; well embedded. And his dirty money; working hard to buy favours and power. It’s easy, now, to see why the Tory Party was blind-sided. The City of London laundering roubles, building the wealth of oligarchs, while mis-information and finance, seeped into the Tory Party to their advantage. Now their cover has been blown; naked and in denial. It was all too easy and all too cosy.
Fingerprints remain on the Brexit campaign, Putin wanted to destabilise Europe for a reason. He sucked in so many into his web of disinformation and distortion. Misinformation manipulates.
So now we have sanctions, first just 5 banks and 3 people, until Labour demanded the hardest possible; Government is catching up, but this will not be sufficient to protect land nor prevent casualties.
As shell-shocked Ukrainians emerge from a night of assaults and try and find a new place to recover and be safe, Government has said that if they apply to pick fruit and veg, then they may be let in to the UK. Traumatised and literally shellshocked, Britain is locking out Ukranians, making their route to safety conditional. I and others pushed back, and now we have more U-turns.
We urgently need a plan as to how we play our part to support all fleeing war and terror. This isn’t about immigration, it is about humanity. Let us return to our reputation of the second world war when we proudly opened our border to those fleeing persecution and execution.
Government must have a foreign policy. Only last week, in response to my question, they were in denial of the need to put pressure on other nations to provide leverage on the Kremlin.
Checks and balances to provide global accountability across all political systems and leaders must be the focus of a reformed UN, paralysed by failed governance and leadership as aggressor states hold it to ransom.
Our Armed Forces, stripped of regulars since Labour left office has depleted our defence; Government must get a grip. The British Armed Forces are strategic, excel in de-escalating risk, the world over, and play a major role in conflict prevention. They need Government backing them, not cutting them. With York proudly homing the British Army, we want our serving personnel to have the resources they need.
It has been a shocking week, so let York stand, united together, with Ukraine. Our unity is our strength. I will see you on Saturday at St. Helen’s Square at 2.30pm as York stands with Ukraine.