"Jesus, that guy is brave"
(Comment reportedly made to an aide by British PM Boris Johnson after finishing a phone call to President Zelenskyy of Ukraine, according to the Sunday Times)
Yesterday, UK forces arrived to reinforce NATO’s eastern flank, deterring Russian aggression threatening the territorial sovereignty of member states.
The UK and other nations have announced action to expel selected Russian banks from the SWIFT financial system, imposing the most severe economic sanctions against Putin’s tyrannical regime for the appalling assault on Ukraine.
“The horrific and unprovoked attack on Ukraine is an act of great evil.
“Placing our trust in Jesus Christ, the author of peace, we pray for an urgent ceasefire and a withdrawal of Russian forces. We call for a public decision to choose the way of peace and an international conference to secure long term agreements for stability and lasting peace.
“We invite Christians to make this Sunday a day for prayer for Ukraine, Russia and for peace.
“We also give our support to the call from Pope Francis for a global day of prayer and fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday, March 2.”
(Joint statement by Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury and Stephen Cottrell, Archbishop of York, which was read at the start of services in Anglican Churches today.)
I spent part of today in campaigning in Maryport and then where the Conservative campaign was launched for the new Cumberland local authority which is to be elected in May and will take over council services in the area of Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland councils in April 2023 from those three councils and Cumbria County Council.
The campaign launch was attended by the three local MPs - Trudy Harrison, Mark Jenkinson, and John Stevenson and by most of the candidates who will be standing for the Conservatives from all over the Cumberland Area.
The list of Conservative candidates should be announced within the next 48 hours. Here is an appropriate piece of music.
The UK government has announced further plans to protect people from anonymous trolls online, adding new measures to the Online Safety Bill and strengthening the law against anonymous online abuse.
Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine is an appalling and premeditated attack against a sovereign, democratic state – The UK government is determined to make Vladimir Putin feel the full cost of his actions and aims to impose a package of sanctions that will leave no corner of his regime unscathed.
Today it is Mad Vlad who is sowing the wind: and he too will reap the whirlwind.
Cumbria County Council's Labour administration has finally given up their futile legal challenge to the process local government reform in the area is finally over.
The government revealed its plans to reorganise how Cumbria is governed in 2021, which involve abolishing the existing county council and six district authorities.
Cumbria's existing councils will be replaced by two new unitary authorities by 2023. Cumberland Council will cover Carlisle, Allerdale and Copeland. Westmorland and Furness Council will cover Eden, South Lakeland and Barrow-in-Furness.
Despite a motion passed by the full council urging against pursing a Judicial Review against the decision, and backbench councillors on the Scrutiny Management Board urging the county cabinet to think again following a "call-in," a flaw in the County Council's constitution allowed the six Labour members of the council to launch a legal challenge.
The Scrutiny Management Board, which warned of the possibility of escalating costs, was proved right, and the council's Labour leader proved wrong, when the court ordered the county council to pay £60,000 of legal costs to the Secretary of State and to the other six councils in Cumbria - this was a "reasonable proportion" of their costs, so allowing for the rest and for the county council's own legal costs, it is unlikely that the taxpayers of Cumbria have had much change, if any at all, from a hundred thousand pounds.
The print issue of the Whitehaven News this week carries an unfortunate misleading headline about my friend and colleague Dr Stephen Haraldsen who among other things is and remains the Conservative county councillor for Yewdale.
The article itself is correct but the headline was misleading. To be completely clear, Stephen has not resigned from the Conservative party.
Because of his work commitments as a Senior Lecturer, Stephen has stepped down as Deputy Leader of the Conservative Group on Cumbria County Council. He remains committed to representing the people of Yewdale on the county council.
1) "What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution."
(V.K. Pleve, Russian minister of the interior, in 1905, immediately before the Russo-Japanese war which proved to be less than short and anything but victorious.)
I have received the following briefing on the action the UK is taking in response to Putin's aggression against Ukraine.
Responding to an unprovoked and premeditated attack
Support for Ukraine
Britain has been supporting Ukraine and tackling Russian aggression throughout this period by:
Tackling illicit finance
"President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable."
(US President Joe Biden)
"President Putin of Russia has unleashed war in our European continent. He has attacked a friendly country without any provocation and without any credible excuse. Innumerable missiles and bombs have been raining down on an entirely innocent population."
"If the months ahead are grim, and the flame of freedom burns low. I know that it will blaze bright again in Ukraine.
Because for all his bombs and tanks and missiles I don’t believe that the Russian dictator will ever subdue the national feeling of the Ukrainians and their passionate belief that their country should be free."
"This act of wanton and reckless aggression is an attack not just on Ukraine.
It is an attack on democracy and freedom in East Europe and around the world.
This crisis is about the right of a free, sovereign independent European people to choose their own future.
And that is a right that the UK will always defend."
"Peace on our continent has been shattered.
This is a deliberate, cold-blooded and long-planned invasion. Russia's unjustified, unprovoked attack on Ukraine is putting countless innocent lives at risk with air and missile attacks."
“NATO Allies condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the strongest possible terms,”
“We call on Russia to immediately cease its military action, withdraw its forces from Ukraine, and choose diplomacy.”
“We fully support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and Ukraine’s right of self-defence” Mr. Stoltenberg added.
“We will continue to do whatever is necessary to shield the Alliance from aggression,”
Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, speaking after the North Atlantic Council decided today to activate NATO’s defence plans to protect Allied nations during this crisis.
“We condemn this barbaric attack and the cynical arguments that are being used to justify it.”
“We will not allow President [Vladimir] Putin to replace the rule of law, by the rule of force, and ruthlessness. Ukraine will prevail.”
(EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.)
Russian president Vladimir has announced what he described as a “special military operation” in the breakaway eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass, saying that Russia was responding to pleas for help from the separatists there.
Shortly after Mr Putin’s televised address at around 6am in Moscow, explosions were heard outside Kiev itself and heavy clashes were reported in several major Ukrainian cities.
The Ukraine government said Mr Putin had “declared war” and Russian forces were entering the country from Belarus in the north and Crimea in the south, as well as Russia to the east.
Clearly the intelligence that Putin was planning an unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine was correct.
The West must, and I believe will, now hit Russia with a united and very strong package of sanctions.
Prime Minister’s Statement on the situation in Ukraine: 22 February 2022
The PM made the following statement yesterday.
"Last night, President Putin flagrantly violated the Minsk peace agreements by recognising the supposed independence of the so-called ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
In a single inflammatory speech, he denied that Ukraine had any ‘tradition of genuine statehood’, claimed that it posed a ‘direct threat to the security of Russia’, and hurled numerous other false accusations and aspersions.
Soon afterwards, the Kremlin announced that Russian troops would enter the breakaway regions under the guise of ‘peacekeepers’, and Russian tanks and armoured personnel carriers have since been spotted.
The House should be in no doubt that the deployment of these forces in sovereign Ukrainian territory amounts to a renewed invasion of that country.
And by denying Ukraine’s legitimacy as a state – and presenting its very existence as a mortal threat to Russia – Putin is establishing the pretext for a full-scale offensive.
I think Honourable Members will struggle to understand how or to contemplate, how in the year 2022, a national leader might calmly and deliberately plot the destruction of a peaceful neighbour, yet the evidence of his own words suggests that is exactly what President Putin is doing.
When I said on Saturday that his scheme to subvert and invade Ukraine was already in motion before our eyes, the events of the last 24 hours have, sadly, shown this to be true.
We must now brace ourselves for the next possible stages of Putin’s plan: the violent subversion of areas of eastern Ukraine by Russian operatives and their hirelings, followed by a general offensive by the nearly 200,000 Russian troops gathered on the frontiers, at peak readiness to attack.
If the worst happens, then a European nation of 44 million men, women and children would become the target of a full-scale war of aggression, waged without a shred of justification, for the absurd and even mystical reasons that Putin described last night.
Unless the situation changes, the best efforts of the United States, of this country, France, Germany, and other allies to avoid conflict through patient diplomacy may be in vain.
From the beginning, we have all tried our utmost, we’ve all tried, to find a peaceful way through this crisis.
On 11th February, my Right Honourable Friend the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Radakin, paid the first joint visit to Moscow by the holders of their offices since Churchill - who was also defence minister at the time – travelled to Russia with General Alanbrooke in 1944.
They held over three hours of frank discussions with the Russian defence minister, General Shoigu, and the chief of staff, General Gerasimov, demonstrating how seriously we take Russia’s security concerns, how much we respect her history, and how hard we are prepared to work to ensure peaceful co-existence.
My Right Honourable Friend the Foreign Secretary delivered the same messages when she met her Russian counterpart in Moscow on the 10th of February.
I have spoken on a number of occasions to President Putin since this crisis began and so has President Biden, while President Macron and Chancellor Scholz have both visited Moscow.
Together we have explored every avenue and given Putin every opportunity to pursue his aims by negotiation and diplomacy.
And I will tell the house, we will not give up: we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution until the last possible second, but we have to face the possibility that none of our messages has been heeded and Putin is implacably determined to go further in subjugating and tormenting Ukraine.
And it is because we suspected as much that the UK and our allies repeatedly sounded the alarm about a possible new invasion, and we disclosed much of what we knew about Russia’s military build-up.
Britain has done everything possible to help Ukraine to prepare for another onslaught, training 22,000 soldiers, supplying 2,000 anti-tank missiles, and providing £100 million for economic reform and energy independence, and we will now guarantee up to $500 million of Development Bank financing.
I travelled to Kyiv to meet President Zelenskyy on the 1st February, and I saw him again in Munich on Saturday. I spoke to him last night, soon after Putin’s speech, to assure him, as I’m sure the whole House would agree was the right thing to do, I assured him of Britain’s unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
And now the UK and our allies will begin to impose the sanctions on Russia that we have already prepared, using the new and unprecedented powers granted by this House to sanction Russian individuals and entities of strategic importance to the Kremlin.
Today, the UK is sanctioning the following four five Russian banks: Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank. And we are sanctioning three very high net worth individuals: Gennady Timchenko, Boris Rotenberg, and Igor Rotenberg.
Any assets they hold in the UK will be frozen, the individuals concerned will be banned from travelling here, and we will prohibit all UK individuals and entities from having any dealings with them.
This is the first tranche, the first barrage, of what we are prepared to do: we will hold further sanctions at readiness, to be deployed alongside the United States and the European Union if the situation escalates still further.
Last night, our diplomats joined an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, and we will raise the situation in the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
And let me emphasise what I believe unites every member of this House with equal determination: the resolve of the United Kingdom to defend our NATO allies is absolute and immovable.
We have already doubled the size of our deployment in Estonia, where the British Army leads NATO’s battlegroup, and when I met President Levits of Latvia and Prime Minister Kallas of Estonia in Munich on Saturday, I told them that we would be willing to send more British forces to help protect our allies if NATO makes such a request.
We cannot tell what will happen in the days ahead, but, Mr Speaker, we should steel ourselves for a protracted crisis.
The United Kingdom will meet this challenge side-by-side with our allies, determined that we will not allow Putin to drag our continent back into a Hobbesian state of nature, where aggression pays and might is right.
And it is precisely because the stakes are so high that Putin’s venture in Ukraine must fail, must ultimately fail and be seen to fail. That will require the perseverance, the unity and the resolve of the entire Western alliance, and Britain will do everything possible to ensure that that unity is maintained.
And now our thoughts should turn to our valiant Ukrainian friends, who threaten no-one, and ask for nothing except to live in peace and freedom.
We will keep faith with them in the critical days that lie ahead and whatever happens, Mr Speaker, Britain will not waver in our resolve and I commend this statement to the House."
The government has welcomed news that nearly 40 per cent of FTSE 100 board positions are now held by women – meaning the UK is second in the world for women’s representation at board level as we work to build back fairer.
The government has this week announced plans to slash red tape through reforms to insurance regulation – unlocking billions of pounds of investment in UK infrastructure by taking advantage of our increased freedom of action outside the EU.
This plan will unlock growth and ensure businesses can spend more of their money investing, innovating, and creating jobs, as we seize on the opportunities of Brexit.
"What is at stake is something much bigger than settling ethnic or nationalist claims. It is whether we are committed to the advance of democracy."
(Daniel Finkelstein, in an article in today's Times about the implications of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine for democracy here and around the world. I bought a paper copy today: if you subscribe you can find it online here.)
The Jewish Chronicle carries a piece from former editor Stephen Pollard, with a news report from an alternate universe in which Jeremy Corbyn won the last election and suggests how he might be responding to current tensions with Ukraine. You can read it here ...
Whatever else he may or may not do to Ukraine, one thing can now be said with certainty about the malign legacy of Vladimir Putin's actions towards Ukraine - there will be those who make a convincing argument that it could be said even before the present crisis.
And that is that he has dealt any hope of nuclear disarmament and the cause of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons a blow from which it may never recover.
On the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, Ukraine was left with about a third of the former Soviet nuclear arsenal - about 1,700 warheads, one of the three largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons in the world. There were also former Soviet nuclear weapons in Belarus, Kasakhstan and, of course, the Russian Federation,
At an OSCE conference in Hungary in December 1994, Ukraine, Belarus and Kasakhstan agreed to surrender or destroy all their nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees from all the great powers.
In particular, under the terms of the Budapest Memorandum, Russia, the US and the UK confirmed their recognition of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine becoming parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and effectively abandoning their nuclear arsenal to Russia and that they would:
The USA and the Russian Federation jointly reaffirmed those promises and guarantees to Ukraine as recently as 2009.
The theft of the Crimea by Russia in 2014 was a serious breach of the Budapest Memorandum, but Russia's further actions this week and Vladimir Putin's speech amounted to a clear repudiation of the agreement.
The question now has to be asked, in the light of this clear breach of faith by the Russian president, what government in their right mind would give up nuclear weapons in exchange for such a guarantee in future - and the answer to that question, surely, is none.
"I welcome this apology from Jolyon Maugham for the untruthful statement he put out yesterday. Having lost yet another case this week, and falsely claimed they won, the discredited Good Law Project should now accept their increasingly vexatious legal actions are a waste of the court’s time, when there is such a backlog to clear.
"The Good Law Project should accept that officials and Ministers in Government were working hard to save lives, and end their increasingly desperate actions. I particularly want to thank the huge number of officials who did so much in the pandemic and now find their time needlessly wasted in defending these pointless actions, especially when there’s going to be a full inquiry.
The public should note that the Good Law Project’s claims are frequently untrue, and should not be reported as fact, if at all.
"I once again welcome this apology from this increasingly discredited organisation."
(Matt Hancock welcomes an apology from Jolyon Maugham on behalf of the so-called "Good Law Project" for communicating out "We won" about a court judgement which had actually found that
‘The claim brought by Good Law Project fails in its entirety.’
The Prime Minister will today set out plans to live with Covid, using the strong protections we have built up against the virus to safely restore people’s freedoms.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister spoke with President Macron about increasing tensions on Ukraine’s borders, reaffirming Britain's unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and commitment to severe sanctions if Russia invades.
The government is advising everyone to remain vigilant today and take extreme care following the impacts of Storm Eunice, taking steps to protect people from further storms on the way.
I am concerned to learn that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has tested positive for COVID-19 today. Relieved to hear that she only has mild and "cold-lie" symptoms.
Like, I am sure, the vast majority of people in Britain I wish Her majesty a quick and full recovery.
There is an excellent piece by Daniel Johnson about the looming threat of a return to war on The Article site.
Here are a few extracts.
"We have lived with the expectation of an imminent Russian invasion of Ukraine for many weeks now. A miasma of fear has spread across Europe, wreaking more havoc than Storms Dudley and Eunice. The world is learning to live again with the nightmare of sudden annihilation, which hovered over us for more than 40 years during the Cold War. Older people can still recall Chamberlain’s chilling announcement of the outbreak of the Second World War.
We are returning to a world in which dictators prey on vulnerable neighbours, where landscapes are disfigured by killing fields. Europe is a haunted continent, whose phantoms are rising from the mass graves of all too recent atrocities. That unquiet past has never really passed away; now it threatens to return."
"It is not only the Ukrainians who dread what is to come. Poles and Romanians, Latvians and Lithuanians, Estonians and Jews in every country are deeply apprehensive about what may be about to happen. Wars that begin in one region of these “bloodlands” tend to spread to the rest. From 1939-1945 Belarus lost a quarter, Poland 18 per cent, the Soviet Union (including Ukraine), Lithuania and Latvia 13-14 per cent of their prewar populations."
"One man, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, has it in his power to banish this hideous vision of Hell from our minds. He alone can tell his generals to desist from unleashing forces that will ultimately destroy not only countless numbers of civilians as well as those whom he regards as his foes, but many thousands of his own troops and very probably his own regime, too."
"Putin can halt his aggression now and prevent all of the consequences that must inexorably flow from it, or he can go down in history as the uniquely iniquitous individual who knowingly condemned Europe to repeat the bloodiest chapter of its history. For that crime, he would deserve to be arraigned at The Hague. He would be a war criminal no less guilty than those tried and punished at Nuremberg."
"He should be reminded by the international community that launching a war of aggression remains a war crime, regardless of the crimes against humanity that would inevitably follow later. The moment he gives the order to invade, his life and liberty are forfeit."
"For this crime, there can be no excuse, no forgiveness and no escape. Even if he were never arrested, Putin would be a fugitive from justice for the rest of his days. He would be an indelible stain on the reputation of his country. Is that what Putin wants for himself and for Russia?"
You can read the whole piece here.
Yesterday evening President Biden said that he thinks Vladimir Putin may have decided to invade Ukraine.
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has urged Russia to step back from the brink and reaffirmed Britain's unwavering support for Ukraine's sovereignty.
Today the government announced the creation of more than 4,000 new prison places, which will help to keep criminals off our streets and protect the public while they undergo rehabilitation as we build back safer.
Having enough prison places is essential to keep criminals off our streets and allow enough time for rehabilitation to turn them into law-abiding citizens that are no longer a threat to the public.
That is why the government has today announced the creation of more than 4,000 new prison places across 16 different prisons through the building of new wings and refurbishing jails, as part of our unprecedented prison-building programme which will create 20,000 new places by the mid-2020s.
The government is improving the existing prison estate, putting more offenders behind bars, training them for release and protecting the public as we build back safer.
Yesterday, the UK government closed the Tier 1 Investor visa route with immediate effect, as the first move in a new plan to take firm action to crackdown on corrupt elites and strengthen confidence in our immigration system.
This is just the start of a renewed crackdown on fraud & illicit finance.
Britain has this week accepted expert advice to extend the offer of a vaccination against Covid-19 to all children aged 5 – 11, ensuring that parents are able to increase their children’s protection against potential future waves of Covid-19 if they wish to do so.
Yesterday, the Prime Minister met virtually with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, strengthening the historic partnership of Britain and Australia in security, democracy and trade.
The government is investing £200 million in the UK’s fight against zoonotic diseases, so Britain can lead the way in protecting both human and animal health and boost our resistance to future pandemics.
There is a very good piece about the Russian Army, how it has developed and the threat it poses on "The Article" website by Sir Robert Fry.
General Sir Robert Fry completed a full military career which included appointments as the Commandant General of the Royal Marines and Deputy Commanding General of coalition forces in Iraq. After military service, he became a vice president of Hewlett Packard and chair of Albany Associates. He is a visiting professor at King’s College, London.
His article begins as follows:
The government has announced £125 million in extra support for councils to provide shelters, refuge, and support services to help victims of domestic abuse and their children.
The UK is expected to be hit by two storms in the space of three days starting today with forecasters warning of 90mph winds across the north of England and Scotland, while some regions could face "blizzard conditions".
Storm Dudley will cross the northern half of the UK from tonight (Wednesday) into Thursday morning, while Storm Eunice will bring strong winds and potentially some snow for parts of the country on Friday.
The Met Office has added an amber warning to a yellow alert already in place, when naming the first of the two storms expected to cause disruption.
"Storm Dudley is expected to affect the UK on Wednesday night and Thursday, bringing a period of very strong and disruptive winds," the Met Office said.
The amber alert warns of gusts of 70-90mph from 6pm on Wednesday to 9am on Thursday for southern Scotland, north England and the north of Northern Ireland.