Lib Dems for Ukraine

We have potholes. They have craters. We have a cost of living crisis. They have a cost of dying crisis. We have hospital waiting lists. They have a list of bombed hospitals. As I write this in Kyiv, Vladimir Putin is trying to kill me. Not just me but everyone in the Ukrainian capital.  To be fair, Russia’s hypersonic missiles, sorry, elderly Russian ironmongery, keep getting shot out of the sky. But the war in Ukraine is not over by a long chalk. The charge sheet of Russian barbarism gets grimmer by the day: targeting civilians, torture, execution, rape, castration.

The values of Ukraine are our values: democracy, liberalism, we don’t just respect the other – we fight for them. Together, we must stand against the Fascist International. Our job as Liberal Democrats is to keep up the pressure on the Conservative government and remind the rather too many people in the Labour Party that the word of Vladimir Putin is not reliable, to put it mildly. That’s why we are setting up the Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine.

Three policies stand out. We must support Ukraine with the military hardware necessary for the defeat of Russian fascism. We must make Britain as welcoming to Ukrainian refugees as the European Union is: if you have a Ukrainian passport, you can stay and live and work in Britain for three years, just as you can in Germany, Italy, France, across the whole union. We must burn down Londongrad and send Russia’s ill-gotten gold to help rebuild Ukraine.

I am no arsonist. But Londongrad – where Russian oligarchs hide their dirty money – is a danger not just to Ukraine but also to our own democracy. For far too long, the Labour and Conservative parties let Vladimir Putin get away with murdering people in Britain because they liked the sheen of Moscow gold.

Senior figures in Labour and the Tories have been far too close to the Kremlin and its proxies for comfort. Tony Blair made a catastrophic mistake when he identified radical Islam as a greater danger than Russian fascism. To secure cover for the “war on terror” he went out of his way to cosy up to Vladimir Putin.

Blair’s unctuous consigliere, Peter Mandelson, hobnobbed with Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, as did George Osborne. Jeremy Corbyn’s spin doctor, Seamas Milne, chaired a conference session in Russia where Putin was one of the speakers. Back in the day, you did something like that, you would have ended up in the Tower. But the biggest question mark hangs over Boris Johnson and his friendship with former KGB colonel Alexander Lebedev, a Russian spy in London from 1988 to… The official answer is that Lebedev was a Russian spy until 1992 but Putin himself says that once in the Russian secret service, you can never leave. Johnson made Lebedev’s foolish boy, Evgeny, Baron Siberia. The clue is in the name. Johnson went to Lebedev’s bunga bunga parties in Italy when he was Foreign Secretary, leaving his Metropolitan Police protection officers behind. Did Johnson tell the old KGB colonel our secrets? The Russian secret service denies any wrongdoing.

When the Ukrainian city of Kherson was liberated after months of Russian occupation, the first thing that the people did was to raise two flags: the first that of Ukraine, the second that of the EU. Ukraine wants to join the European Union, knowing that if countries stand together they can defeat the bullies. Brexit was a Kremlin goal. On joining or, down the track, rejoining the EU, Liberal Democrats and the Ukrainian people are one.

On looking after Ukrainian refugees, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine note that there is some very good practice in some parts of the UK so one of our aims will be to share this – and after our success in local elections we have councillors to do that. We will urge our party leadership to do more, we will punch home the message that fighting Russian fascism is just like fighting Nazi Germany, we will put pressure on the government to give the Ukrainians the heavy metal they need.

By the way, the Ukrainians like British kit. One current joke in Kyiv goes like this. “Who’s given us the best military equipment? The Americans, the Germans, the French?”

“The British.”

“But the steering wheel is on the wrong side.”

“So the Russian snipers shoot the passenger. What’s not to like?”

The war in Ukraine is brutal. For our film Under Deadly Skies: Ukraine’s Eastern Front I interviewed, Alexander, a Ukrainian who was cruelly tortured by the Russian occupiers in Kherson. He wept at the memories of what he and his fellow prisoners went through.

What Russia is doing in Ukraine is a thing of evil.

We are the party of Paddy Ashdown. We are fighters. We fight for freedom, we fight for the wretched of the earth, we fight for the poor and the needy – and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine will fight for a free Ukraine.

Join us.

Do that now.

To join please email: [email protected] with your membership no, email address and local party if a member or just your email address and local party if you are a registered supporter.

 

* John Sweeney is an investigative journalist and author of 15 books, his latest 'Killer In The Kremlin' published by Penguin.

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3 Comments

  • It’s not just a matter of bieng smart. It’s having the political will in the first place. Azerbaijan is carrying out war crimes and ethnic cleansing as we speak but we won’t do anything about it because BP has is drilling thier oil and gas, and their regime has loads of assets in the UK.

  • Zachary Adam Barker 22nd Sep '23 - 10:08pm

    Great article. I have sent an email enquiring about joining Liberal Democrat Friends of Ukraine.

  • Buy “Killer in the Kremlin” at conference. A brilliant and vivid account.

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