A terrible and incomprehensible situation

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I had decided not to write an article about the horrific invasion of Ukraine, perpetrated by President Putin and his regime, as we are all watching the horrific events unfold on rolling news cycles and in the newspapers. There is, however, no escape that Ukraine and Europe itself are in a terrible, almost incomprehensible, situation and I should be providing reassurance to my constituents – to you – that everything will be okay. I cannot do that, but I can reassure you that the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, and Defence Ministers are doing everything they can to avoid the invasion and war in Ukraine escalating further.

I want to emphasise how proud I am to be British at this moment in time. I know that things have been bumpy domestically over the past few weeks and, goodness knows, I have been as irritated as many of you. However, I have been really impressed by the Prime Minister’s grip on this global crisis, as well as that of the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, who has really come to the fore. The Prime Minister has genuinely played a leading role in encouraging – pushing – Europe to impose the most severe and coordinated package of sanctions Russia has ever faced in response to Putin’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. When constituents complained that our initial sanctions did not go far enough, they were right, but there would be little point in the UK imposing tougher sanctions alone without the co-ordinated effort of all EU countries (and, of course, the USA). We now have a remarkably tough and punitive bevy of sanctions, and this includes Belarus for its complicity in Putin’s invasion.

Yesterday (Wednesday 2nd March), I attended a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office briefing on the sanctions, their envisaged effect and reasoning behind them. It was fascinating and clear that a lot of thought (and psychology) has gone into the how/when/why/what. In summary, the sanctions are to coerce a change in behaviour in the Kremlin although we are all aware, of course, that this will only really be achieved with a change of the regime and, as I said in the Chamber to the Foreign Secretary earlier this week, the Russian people and those in the Kremlin who disagree with Mr. Putin need to do whatever it takes to stop him and bring their country back from the brink.

At lunchtime I met up with a group of children from Rye Community Primary School who were on an educational visit to the Houses of Parliament. It was great to see them up in London and how they ‘loved every bit of Parliament’. The issue of Ukraine was on their minds, and they asked some really insightful questions about NATO, how they could help Ukrainian people, and about refugees in particular. One young chap also asked why women and children could leave Ukraine, but the men had to stay and fight – a real topic of discussion for another day methinks! Having just attended the FCDO briefing earlier, I was able to explain that donating money was the best way to help as Poland, in particular, whilst grateful for donations of food, blankets, and so on was feeling overwhelmed by the numbers arriving. Donating money means that things that are actually needed can be purchased and provided. I asked Ministers earlier this week if they would be setting up a fund to which we could donate, and I am pleased that the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal through the Disaster Emergency Committee was announced yesterday; the Government has promised to match pound for pound up to £20 million donated by the public (dec.org.uk), which is very welcome.

We have responded with humanitarian aid and will provide refuge to Ukrainians, and I welcome the Prime Minister’s recent announcement that the UK is sending an additional £40 million in humanitarian aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of UK aid pledged this year to £140 million. As regards refugees, I, along with a number of other Conservative MPs, recently wrote to the Prime Minister urging him to seek a flexible and pragmatic approach to those Ukrainians wishing to gain temporary refuge in the UK, so I was happy to see the humanitarian support package announced by the Home Secretary earlier this week. With changes already announced that will allow an estimated one hundred thousand close family members of British nationals or other people in the UK to come here immediately, the Government is offering more assistance. The Ukrainian Family Scheme will significantly expand the ability of British Nationals and people settled in the UK to bring all immediate family members to the country for free i.e., adult parents, grandparents, children over eighteen, and siblings. The Home Office is also opening a Ukrainian Sponsorship Humanitarian Visa Offer which will provide a route to the UK for Ukrainians who do not have family ties here, and they will be matched with individuals, businesses, community organisations, and Local Authorities who are willing and able to act as a sponsor.

As I explained to our primary school children, Ukrainian people are refugees fleeing war and danger so we must be compassionate and do all that we can to provide help and a safe haven for them.

I wholeheartedly agree with the Prime Minister that Putin must fail. There can be no alternative. I know that our country, in unity with Ukraine and our friends and allies around the world, is using all possible means at its disposal and is urgently engaged to this end. If you would like to read more about the sanctions imposed on Russia (and Belarus), the military and security aid provided by us to Ukraine, our work with NATO and for refugees, please do see my statement on the Ukraine Crisis on my website here: https://www.sallyannhart.org.uk/news/statement-ukraine-crisis.

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36 COMMENTS

  1. This maybe not the right article to attach this comment to but does anyone know if Rye’s links with Ukraine via the Rye Chernobyl Childrens charity still exist? Sadly the much loved and missed Rev Janet Waddams (the founder) passed away but it did amazing work offering respite holidays every year to hundreds of Ukrainian children from the disaster zone. I think there was a link with a hospital in Korosten and my memory is that Rye in Ukrainian was close to their word for paradise although I may have got that wrong. Anyway the children were able to escape here as well as get medical treatment. Sally-Ann Heart if you’re up for kick starting the charity again (apologies to those involved if it’s still running) I for one would happily pitch in with help. There are going to be many Ukrainians in need of a safe place to find refugee and I’m sure there are enough of us in the town and villages around who could help. We just need some leadership to get something going again. How about it Sally-Ann or may be even our new Rev? Apologies for not knowing your name and putting you on the spot but could you and the church take up Janet’s legacy?

  2. Once again, Sally Ann Hart writes a heavily political propaganda piece. She once again seeks praise for a government doing the absolute bare minimum. Even as Ukraine is being bombed to smithereens, with all the suffering for so many in that country, her emphasis is not on that, but on being proud to be British.
    Is she proud that the UK has allowed huge wealth from Russia to flow into this country, at least £700m since 2008, with no checks on the origin of the money? 706 wealthy Russians bought Tier One ‘golden’ visas to secure residency in the UK between 2008-2015. Transparency International has identified £1.5bn worth of property owned by wealthy Russians in the UK, that is just the exposed tip of the buried mountain of wealth. Thanks to impenetrable shell companies sanctioned by Companies House, the figure is probably much higher.
    The Conservative party has welcomed the Russian kleptocracy with open arms. Based on Electoral Commission information, it is estimated that donors who had made money from Russia or Russians had given £1.93m to either the Tory party or constituency associations since Johnson became prime minister. Others estimate this figure is much higher. A Russian Conservative donor previously married to one of Vladimir Putin’s ministers gave the party another £80,000 in the last quarter, during which period the build-up of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border was in full swing. The Conservative Party has faced calls to hand over Lubov Chernukhin’s donations – about £2m since 2012 – to Ukrainian humanitarian causes. Does Sally-Ann Hart agree that money needs to be handed over, I wonder?
    As for Boris Johnson, I have long ago stopped trusting him, as indeed I suspect much of the international community has. In my opinion, he has in common with Vladimir Putin that he’s a lying sociopath – the world needs fewer of such people. He likes to compare himself with Churchill, but always brings to mind Emperor Nero, playing the lute while Rome burns.

  3. Shortly after I came to live in Rye in 2013, I was invented (as a bilingual Russian-Eb English speaker) to join the Chernobyl Children Rye charity and was its secretary for several years. Sadly, as memories of the horror of Chernobyl faded from public memory, it became increasingly hard to raise funds. One group of children from Ukraine did come on a visit in 2015, but as time went on two members of the committee passed away (the artist John Izod, and Janet Waddams who retired due to I’ll health before her death). The work of the charity passed to another, well-established charity Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline that has better opportunities to continue the work. With the situation in Ukraine deteriorating daily – especially the terrible news of the attack on the huge nuclear facility – I urge all people of goodwill to contact the Chernobyl Children’s Lifeline: their webstire is on the Internet.

  4. Like many people I am at the moment in a daze at the horror of current events and, not initially realising she was the local MP, I thought Sally-Ann Hart’s article was a Private Eye parody. Her statements such as “I have been really impressed by the Prime Minister’s grip on this crisis” and “The Prime Minister has genuinely played a leading role in encouraging…Europe to impose the most severe…sanctions…(etc)” are just plain delusional. All the evidence of recent weeks suggests the polar opposite to be true.
    Ms. Hart’s government carries no weight in Europe, Russia and elsewhere and the performance of key cabinet members, especially the Foreign Secretary and the Home Secretary, have been excruciating and embarrassing. (Ben Wallace is an honourable exception.)
    It is one thing to support your own government, but toadying up to them when the majority of your constituents know the truth to be different, is quite another. I am genuinely pleased that she found time to write an article for Rye News and it’s nice that she gave up some of her time to host a visit of a group of school children, but a dash of realism in her views would be good for her standing as Rye’s MP.

  5. Thank you Mr Manning for providing a fuller picture of the Ukrainian disaster than our MP, Ms Hart. I am also dismayed that when Syrian and other Middle Eastern people needed help as refugees, they were labelled ‘migrants’ and I saw no heartfelt statement from our MP or PM. And the issue of the UK allowing more Russian oligarchs to hide money here over the past decade, is deplorable. Ms Hart fails to mention that the US, Canada and EU have clamped down much harder.

  6. It is very sad that some have used this article merely just to criticise the Government without any condemnation of Russia or reference to the humanitarian efforts to help the Ukrainian people which the Mayor has mentioned. This surely is the priority at the moment

    • I totally agree. In any case, things are moving on quickly regarding the refugees. This is a time for us to unite as a country, not to try and score political points.

      • I doubt that there is a single person living in and around Rye who doesn’t totally condemn Russia’s criminal invasion. It’s so obvious that it doesn’t demand a mention, but does that also absolve this government of any criticism? Of course not. Day after day we hear of the government’s incompetence, mismanagement, U-turns and lies and it embarrasses and saddens me. It also drives me to ensure that the guilty parties are called out at every opportunity. And for the record, I am by nature a middle of the road floating voter with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. The current government does not however seem to share that objective.

  7. Whatever Sally Ann Hart writes, the sniping will continue,as Michael says its sad, will some of these people ever get over the brexit vote, and just think if Diane Abbott had become home secretary, it doesn’t bare thinking about at this present time.

    • Sorry—why are people supposed to be “over” a referendum that was won by lying, cheating, and malign foreign influence? And why are you collapsing that issue into this one?

  8. Michael Miller probably echoes many when he suggests we ought to be focussing on Ukrainians right now, that’s completely understandable. However, I think in all honesty, it’s exactly at times like this that constituents should be engaged in what those in power are doing and saying. This is a moment in Europe’s life when it’s not just a people that’s under threat, but the idea of Democracy itself.
    Whilst I’ve been in turn alarmed and outraged by what Putin is doing, I’ve been equally amazed by the lack of self-awareness in our political classes, who can work themselves into a spectacular lather of high dudgeon over Ukraine’s terrible plight, declaiming against infringements of international law, supporting the rights of refugees and lamenting the trampling of self-determination, and yet, concurrently, seem able to sustain the contradictory claim that one of our close allies has the right to occupy, annex and comprehensively oppress another people. Not for a week, but for half a century… This is not the time to get into that scabrous issue, but if our political classes are going to start championing law and democracy, they’d best apply the standard more evenly – at home and abroad, lest they wish to appear hypocrites and further diminish their standing.
    Lastly, I think more and more people do see through the transparent pantomime of party politics and instinctively want something else – a system that serves people, not parties, lobbyists and donors.

  9. Thank you Dominic Manning for putting the response to Sally Ann Hart’s self con gratulatory piece so succinctly, I cannot put it any better.
    And I would just like to say to John Tolhurst that our criticism of SAH’s attitude, has nothing to do with Brexit, it has to do with opposing non factual opinions. “Proud of PM’s great gestures in the Ukraine crises”, hardly, how come that two Ukrainian musicians, who won a place in the 2022 Hastings piano competition, were not given a visa when they applied? And generous people from Rye had offered them their home to stay in, yet they were refused. For how many Oligarchs has Johnson made life difficult, about 11 to the EU’s several hundreds, always promising to do more but not immediately, while destruction and death prevails

  10. It is some days since Sally Ann Hart MP wrote this piece. This evening the Foreign Office confirmed that just 50 visas for Ukrainian Refugees have been issued. This is 1% of the applications made. I am struggling – in the context of a humanitarian crisis – to equate this to the “one hundred thousand close family members” Ms Hart mentions in her article. I am utterly ashamed of our government and it’s failure to grasp the urgency to act. But I am more concerned by the contempt with which our local MP seemingly holds us, to think we will fall for this shameful rhetoric and her baseless claims of compassion.

  11. Sally Savory, hear hear – my sentiments exactly – I could wish that our MP has not chosen this terrible conflict as a vehicle for a PR exercise in aid of her leader.

  12. Sadly as it seems Dominic manning, seems to have a very short memory, wasn’t it Gordon brown that launched the (Tier 1 investor program ) giving golden visas to Russians in the first place.And talking about this horrid war,let’s hope Putin is brought to justice when it ends,and not escape justice, like Tony Blair did.

  13. I find myself in the unlikely position of agreeing with John T re Tony B!

    However, regarding the issue of Russian money, I do recommend John, you Google, “Open Democracy Russian money Conservative Party” for a few very elucidatory articles from a decent journalistic source. Some more stringent regulation or greater transparency at least is evidently needed. One of the latest revelations is that the Conservative party accepted £44,000 from an official at a Russian bank the Govt has just sanctioned… Peter Oborne wrote an excellent article on ‘Concierge Conservatism’ recently – and as if to underscore his point, Ben Elliot, Conservative Chair and professional middle-man, just deleted all the content on his corporate site about his access to Russian “elites”. Wonder why?

    It’s enough to make you wonder out loud what chance the ordinary citizen has in the face of lobbyists, political palm-greasers, millionaire social climbers and corporations? I wonder what the Member for Rye and Hastings thinks? Is Democracy still ‘the worst form of government – except for all the others’? Or is Democracy now like The Ritz? Open to anyone…

    https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/tories-given-44000-by-top-official-at-sanctioned-russian-bank/

    https://www.google.co.uk/amp/s/www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/tory-chair-ben-elliot-russia-elite-b2027521.html%3famp

  14. Unlike our MP I am not proud to be British today, International Women’s Day. As hundreds of thousands of women and their children flee Ukraine with such dignity in the face of horror the Government has announced that just THREE HUNDRED visas have been granted, this is not a figure to be proud of.

  15. Yvonne Metcalf I find myself with an ashamed hanging head sadly!
    Have contacted the International Refugee Council and filled in relevant forms with referees to offer my home to refugees, but do not hold out too much hope with our present Foreign office muddle and prevarication, obfuscation…..!?

  16. At least, in the UK, we can freely debate and criticise without fear. But hand-wringing doesn’t help anyone. What else can we all do? Must we do? Go back to the very first comment from Rebekah Gilbert, Mayor of Rye, who has donated money to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Appeal for Ukraine. We should all do the same, whatever you can afford, and do it now. It’s not enough to turn out unwanted old clothes, etc., which costs you nothing. The disaster charities need cash. Time is vital. The link is there.

  17. Please, please Sally-Ann, do something to advise Priti Patel she should not pander to the ultra right of her party and please, please make it easy for Ukrainian refugees to come here. OK slowly she has now allowed visa applications to be made on line, but the lengthy forms are in English. For goodness sake!
    If anything like the Passenger Locator Forms we needed to get back into this country, even British born native speakers had great difficulty.

  18. Some Ukrainians may have had no time at all to escape the missiles. And not have all the necessary documents. Others may not even be passport holders.
    This is war.

  19. Totally agree with Dominic Manning, well said. The Conservatives are up to their necks in corrupt money from Russian donors, they should hand it all over to Ukranian war relief. But of course they won’t, will they? It’s perfectly okay to express outrage at Russian actions and also call our own government to account at the same time – that’s the difference between democracy and dictatorship. Although with the Tory’s new Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill and its attempts to silence peaceful protest perhaps they have been learning a thing or two from their Russian buddies?

  20. I’m surprised at the hostility towards the MP who’s backing her boss and party, it’s what MP’s do and would be exactly what Labour or any other MP would do.
    This country voted for the tories because there was no other viable alternative, people trawl up Brexit because it’s an easy hit much the same as handling the Covid situation.
    It looks as though they’re as rare as hens teeth on this site but someone must have voted for Mrs Hart or did she inherit the job?
    As a former military person I do agree with the comments on Tony Blair, who should have been held to account for war crimes but instead makes a lot of money talking about it and advising others.
    If you want a fight put ten people in a room and ask them for their opinions on politics and you’ll get ten different views which in their eyes will all be right.

  21. I think Tony hit the nail on the head. Ms Hart’s doing ‘what MPs do’. Our MP is reciting the party line, as all MPs are required to do. I think the trouble is, certainly from my perspective, that the conspicuousness of the strategic communications messaging militates against any sense of authenticity and sincerity.
    In today’s world, ‘authenticity’ is everything, and when an interlocutor of any kind is clearly just parroting from a rote-learned script, people instinctively bridle. We may not realise it, but we are highly sophisticated media consumers, conditioned over centuries to interpret much more than the mere words spoken… In general, nobody wants to be marketed to. People want to be reasoned with by somebody they trust, somebody who shares their reality and appears to understand their concerns. Pushing out a clunky press-release with cut-and-paste messaging priorities is not only rather weak comms, it somewhat under-estimates the audience…
    It’s not entirely Ms Hart’s fault, however, it’s how our media and polity is calibrated, and so our representatives calibrate themselves accordingly. But it’s a double-edged sword – yes, it’s a nice, polished media presentation, but unfortunately, nobody lends it much credence bcs it might as well be an ad for toothpaste…
    The other reason our political representatives’ utterances are so tightly controlled (and consequently in-authentic) is due to our Punch and Judy First Past the Post electoral system, which carves up
    the electoral real estate and hands it to two corporate political entities that behave like rival supermarkets… But that’s another story…
    I suspect a lot of people would, for better or worse, rather hear Ms Hart’s unmediated thoughts.
    (Who’d be an MP, eh?!)

  22. Just 43.6 per cent of the electorate voted Tory in the 2019 General Election, thus showing a huge majority (56.3 per cent of the electorate) actively voted for alternatives! What makes them unviable is the system, where a tiny rump of the population governs with impunity thanks to a massive majority out of any connection to how many people voted. That’s British democracy for you! A system that baffles the rest of the world, including most former colonies which long ago tore up the first past the post system that bedevils the self-styled Mother of Parliaments.

  23. Personally speaking I do believe Putin is trying to pick a fight with NATO, With attacking civilians and hospitals not to mention sending missiles close to Poland .So going on about our politicians and others seems a waste of time when everybody should be sorting Putin and his gang into a serious ceasefire!!

    • Personally thinking, I believe most people are capable of holding two or more thoughts at any one time. I am getting fed up at reading, inter alia, that complaining to a supermarket about poor service is wrong, because “don’t you know there is a war on”! (Other examples are available.).

  24. I agree with John, politicians are notorious for hiding bad news and surely that’s the reason we have so many ministers of state to cover all scenario’s. Covids on the rise, crime still happens, the cost of living is spiralling by the day, are we suppose to ignore those problems because there’s a war in Eastern Europe?

  25. The BBC is doing the government’s bidding in being totally pre-occupied on its News Channel with the Ukraine war. Boris must be delighted about the spotlight being taken off him all of a sudden. Of course the situation out there is really terrible, I grant you, but why can’t BBC news at least give us an hour a day’s respite from Ukraine by reporting some UK news which has been almost absent from the airwaves for the best part of a month. Meanwhile invisibly Covid-19 is thriving again – some figures I’ve seen show a 56% increase in cases over the figures for the week before. OK so maybe it does not lead to a great surge in hospitalisations, more a steady trickle but still taking up more NHS time than they can afford. There is also talk of a new hybrid variant “deltacron” (no prizes for guessing what is hybridising !) but who so far has heard of it. Watchers of Sky News may just have spotted it but BBC is silent on the matter. With our guard down, viruses will continue to thrive and increase !

  26. I totally agree with TB that Putin’s actions seem designed to provoke NATO into Russia’s war with Ukraine. Despite Ukraine’s demands for a no-fly zone we must stand firm against taking such action as I am convinced as many others are that by doing so we risk escalation into a possible WW3. We should by contrast continue with all our humanitarian efforts and even increase them as well as furnishing the incredible defenders of Ukraine with masses defensive equipment. I doubt whether Putin would ever be shamed by the display of the
    democratic values of the west but that does not excuse us from displaying them. Let us welcome with open arms and without any red tape those courageous Ukrainian refugees, the elderly, the women and the children whose lives have been so suddenly and violently turned upside down.

  27. After Johnson’s speech to the Conservative conference yesterday, it is to be hoped that Ms Hart will not next use Rye News to praise her leader for his repellent comparison of Ukraine’s life or death struggle against Putin’s inhuman aggression with the U.K. narrowly voting to leave the European Union. It is very significant that Ukraine desperately wants to be a member of the European Union, not least because of its precious shared values It is also patently obvious that if Johnson, who is not known for either honesty or integrity, had calculated that it would better serve his political ambitions to campaign to remain in the European Union, he would vigorously have done so.

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