In a PMQs session with members continuously affirming the need for unity against Putin, the government was called on to do more to combat Russian oligarchs and hold Putin to account for his actions.
The session, for which the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK was present, started with the Prime Minister threatening Russia with further sanctions if Putin fails to “turn his tanks around”. He also said that the UK government is setting up a support scheme for Ukrainians in which the government will match the public’s donations. He said:
“Putin has gravely miscalculated in his abhorrent assault on a sovereign nation, he has underestimated the extraordinary fortitude of the Ukrainian people, and the unity and resolve of the free world in standing up to his barbarism.”
“The vice is tightening on the Putin regime, and will continue to tighten.”
Leader of the Opposition, Keir Starmer, strongly reinforced the statement from last PMQs that the Labour party will support the economics crimes bill when it comes before the house on Monday, but once again asked the Prime Minister to work with him to pass additional laws to hold oligarchs to account.
He referenced one Russian oligarch who owns property in London through a shell company, which was only learnt about through the actions of a now-imprisoned Russian dissident.
“This house and this country stand united in our support for the Ukrainian people in the face of Russian aggression.”
“We must stand up to Putin and those who prop-up his regime.”
“We only know which oligarch lurks beneath that shell company because of the information obtained and disclosed by Alexei Navalny. … He now sits in a Putin jail.”
“Transparency is essential to rooting out corruption. It should be built into our law, but it’s not.”
“… [the economic crimes bill] doesn’t come into force for existing owners until 18 months after the bill passes. At best that is Autumn 2023; that’s far too late for the Ukrainian people. Why are we giving Putin’s cronies 18 months to quietly launder their money out of the UK property market and into another safe-haven?”
“… now is the time to sanction every oligarch and crack open every shell company so we can prove Putin wrong.”
Leader of the SNP in the House of Commons, Ian Blackford, called upon the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss the UK recognising “aggression by state” as a war-crime, before stating that Putin should be sent to the Hague to be tried for war crimes. He then asked the Prime Minister if he would be willing to adopt the same measures to accomodate Ukrainian refugees as the EU. Blackford said:
“Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing the horrors of this war and they desperately need refuge.”
“This is a moment for Europe to stand united in the face of Putin’s war. The European Union has waived all visa requirements for Ukrainian refugees. … The UK government stands alone in our continent in so far refusing to do the same.”
Johnson responded that the UK would accept potentially hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians as part of its “family reunion scheme”, and that the government currently has no plans to cap the number of Ukrainian refugees that it accepts through its “humanitarian sponsorship pathway”. However, Johnson insisted that checks on visas will be maintained as the checks are there to alleviate “reasonable security concerns about people coming from that theatre of war.”