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The Telegraph
The Telegraph
24 Feb 2024
Alicia Kearns


Why the West must seize Russia’s central bank assets

Irredentist Russia’s shadow is cast over Europe. It is now two years since Vladimir Putin re-invaded Ukraine, and two years of lives taken, futures stolen and the most dangerous period of European history since the Second World War.

Ukraine needs us now more than ever. The withdrawal from Avdiivka should shame us all – a Ukrainian community has lost its home and thousands of lives were taken, because we collectively did not give them enough munition. We have a choice: give Ukraine enough to win, not just survive, and we can change the course of the next few decades and deter autocrats who are on the march across our globe.

Ukraine has liberated vast swathes of its territories in the face of overwhelming odds. Farmers, milk men, teachers, taxi drivers and fathers across Ukraine have taken up arms against one of the three biggest militaries in the world. Ukraine has liberated Kharkiv, Kherson, defended Odessa, and opened up a corridor in the Black Sea despite having no warships of its own. 

In September alone it destroyed $1 billion in Russian military assets, it’s retaken strategically located oil and gas drilling rigs and it’s shot down hundreds of drones and destroyed Russian anti-air missile installations.

Somehow, in spite of this, there is an insidious Disney penalty playing out across the Atlantic. Ukraine’s enormous bravery and success at reclaiming 50 per cent of territory illegally occupied by Russia has somehow emboldened politicians abroad to say “We need Ukraine to show us more progress.” Show you more progress? Give them what they need to make that progress. 

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Bravery and the fight for freedom against tyranny and oppression can only go so far. The blood of Ukrainians continues to be spilt daily. War is not a movie. The good guys don’t just win. 

Putin cannot be allowed to rewrite history

The threat of Putin must not be forgotten, the man who murdered his political opponent last week, conducted chemical weapons attacks on UK shores, is a strategic partner of Iran and North Korea, and has caused untold misery and horror across the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

We can do more. I am calling on the Government to urgently secure an international agreement on the seizing of Russian central bank assets. Russia committed a crime of aggression, it is right that their frozen funds pay for the defence and reconstruction of Ukraine. We must also pursue a Special Tribunal on the Crime of Aggression to hold Putin and the Troika to account. We cannot allow them to try to rewrite history, they must be held accountable.

After two years of the most brutal European land war, Ukraine has defied the odds and beaten the expectations. It is exactly because of this that I am so proud of the role that the UK has played and our resolute support for Ukraine

We have been a global force in the face of tyranny – the first to answer the call to defend democracy and freedom in Ukraine and Europe, the first to give some of the most effective weapons Ukraine has deployed in its defence, and we were the first to sign a Security Partnership with them. 

This is global leadership and we remain committed to delivering a future that protects individual freedoms and democracy. I am honoured this weekend to be in Kyiv showing the steadfast and absolute support of the British Parliament for our Ukrainian allies.

Europe’s support cannot be overstated

Yet looking across the Atlantic we see the persistent threat posed by Putin’s Russia being underestimated. It is not merely about Ukraine’s ability to resist Russian aggression but ensuring a lasting peace that prohibits future invasions and threats. 

Victory entails a Russia restrained from hostile actions against neighbouring countries, an end to aggressive manoeuvres within and outside its borders, and a united front of Euro-Atlantic nations against terrorism and tyranny. 

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The importance of Europe’s contribution and support in this crisis cannot be overstated and the UK must continue to be a leading force in delivering for a better, more peaceful future. 

Yet if we wish to see this order emerge intact, the US must continue to play its part in the battle for democracy and emerge from the shadow of Trumpian Isolationist doctrine.

It is in many ways ironic that we find ourselves, like Churchill more than 80 years ago, petitioning the US for assistance in a war to secure democracy in Europe. So, it is fitting perhaps that I use his words about Britain then, for Ukraine now. They shall not fail or falter; they shall not weaken or tire. Neither sudden shock of battle, nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear them down. We must give them the tools, and they will finish the job.

Alicia Kearns is a Conservative MP and chairman of the foreign affairs select committee