David Lammy – 2022 Speech on Sanctions on Russia

The speech made by David Lammy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 28 February 2022.

I thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement, and for the briefing that she continues to give me on Privy Council terms.

We have all been inspired by the gallant and tenacious actions of Ukrainians in defence of their country. This is true courage under fire. President Zelensky has epitomised the bravery, dignity and resolve of a nation fighting back, and fighting for values that we all share—democracy, freedom and the rule of law. The Foreign Secretary is right when she says that Putin’s invasion is not so far going to plan, but does she agree that we must not let our focus slip for even a second? We will continue to stand united with our allies and partners, supporting Ukraine and opposing this outrageous campaign of aggression.

This morning, I had the honour, with the shadow Defence Secretary my right hon. Friend the Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), of meeting Ukraine’s ambassador. He thanks all sides of this House for the united opposition we have shown to Vladimir Putin’s illegal war and the support we continue to show for Ukrainian sovereignty. Putin is not only facing a united west; he is facing a truly United Kingdom. Together, we have enacted sanctions that are having a strong effect. The rouble has crashed by over 40%, the main borrowing rate is up 20%, and inflation is reportedly hitting about 65% per year. Oligarchs are being frozen out of their bank accounts and the central bank of Russia is being blocked from part of the $640 billion war chest that it holds in foreign reserves. Labour’s priority is to cut off Putin’s rogue state from our economic system and to undermine his campaign of aggression in Ukraine.

We recognise that on 24 February the European security order changed. Our continent faces a transformed strategic context. Our world is at the start of a new era. I pay tribute to the political courage shown by all our partners, particularly our allies in Germany who have recognised that by taking the difficult and brave decisions to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons for its fight and to commit to the significant increases in defence spending that this new reality demands.

Yesterday, President Putin raised the alert level of Russian nuclear forces. As the five nuclear weapon states, including Russia, reaffirmed in January, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. What assessment has the Foreign Secretary made of that decision, given the understandable concern it will have caused among the public?

Turning to sanctions, we welcome the further steps the Government have announced today. Labour has been calling for some time for progress by the UK, the EU and the US on cutting off Russian banks from SWIFT. The moves finally to clamp down on dirty money—so long demanded by Labour and colleagues across the House—are long overdue. It is regrettable that it has taken so long and a crisis of this nature for such action, but we welcome the steps and will study them carefully. However, there is still more the Government can do.

The last time I stood at the Dispatch Box, I asked what steps the Government had taken to ensure that members of Russia’s legislature, the Duma, could be sanctioned. Still today, I am waiting for that answer. Similarly, although I welcome the Foreign Secretary’s action against Russia’s financial sector, the Government should go further to ensure sanctions can also be placed against Russia’s extractive industries, energy industries and technological industries. We must ensure that the insurance industry cannot underwrite and de-risk Putin’s war. As I said at my last time at the Dispatch Box, it is vital that the sanctions are broad enough to inflict damage on every aspect of Russia’s economy. We welcome the moves the Government have taken to ensure Russia is cut out of the SWIFT banking system, but can the Foreign Secretary explain what dialogue she has had with our allies on cutting the country out of the Visa-Mastercard system, too?

Finally, can the Foreign Secretary give assurances that Putin will also feel the consequences of his despicable actions in terms of international opportunities available to the country in sports and culture? The diplomatic unity of the west is crucial, but we must also widen the global coalition opposing the war. Some countries, such as Kenya, have spoken out with clarity and elegance against Putin’s imperialism, but others have stayed silent. Some are even allies of the UK and fellow democracies. What steps is the Foreign Secretary taking to ensure the widest possible range of voices speaks up in opposition to this war?

As well as commending the bravery of the Ukrainians defending their country, we must also praise the courage of the ordinary Russians taking to the streets of Moscow, St Petersburg and beyond under the threat of repression to show their opposition to this despot. This is the fifth day of fighting. Ukraine is still facing an all-out war from Putin’s army. It is a mark of the bravery of Ukraine’s forces that neither Kyiv nor Kharkiv have fallen. We salute their courage, and this whole House will continue to stand with them.