MPs give standing ovation for Ukrainian ambassador ahead of PMQs
Independent

When Boris Johnson and Keir Starmer last spoke, the threat of war in Ukraine hung over the horizon.

And hours after they left the chamber that threat came rushing into reality.

Putin sent troops into Ukrainian regions and warned the west not to retaliate. In the week since, he has escalated the threat of nuclear war, displaced thousands of Ukrainians and bombed civilians in Kyiv, causing the west to issue sanctions and debate what more needs to be done to stop Putin.

The world has changed immeasurably in just one week.

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With that furnishing the political landscape, how did Starmer scrutinise Johnson on the sanctions he had implemented on Putin's regime, and how did Johnson respond to questioning when they met again for PMQs?

Here's a rundown of what happened:

The conversation started after speaker Lindsay Hoyle announced that Ukrainian ambassador Vadym Prystaiko was in the gallery watching proceedings, triggering a huge and moving round of applause from MPs - which Hoyle allowed.

Starmer asked why Roman Abramovich, the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea F.C. was not facing sanctions.

Johnson said that "it is not appropriate for me to comment on individual cases at this stage" but insisted that the impact of existing sanctions against Putin's regime "is being felt".

"The vice is tightening on the Putin regime and it will continue to tighten," he said, and promised to publish "a full list" of people associated with Putin's regime.


Starmer: "They dip their hands in the blood of war"

Starmer said people who support Putin profit from his warmongering. He named Igor Shuvalov - Putin's former deputy prime minister - and said he owns two flats in London worth over £11m, is facing sanctions from the EU, but has faced no pushback from the UK. "When will the prime minister sort this out?" he said.

Johnson: "There is more to be done"

The prime minister insisted the government has "led the way" in issuing sanctions against Russia and should "be proud" but agreed with Starmer that more could be done to strengthen the UK's overall economic response to Russian aggression.

He said he can sanction "any individual" connected to Putin's regime.

Starmer: "Transparency is essential in rooting out corruption"

Starmer spoke about a whistleblower who exposed Shuvalov and his shell company that owns the flats. He said he was "ashamed" that the UK only knew about it through dissidents risking their lives and called on transparency to be built into the legal system in the UK.

Johnson replied that the exposure of ownership of properties across the UK is taking place "in a way that has not been possible before" and repeated his assertion that the UK has "led the way" with sanctions putting pressure on Putin.

Starmer: "18 months if far too long for the Ukrainian people"

Next Starmer questioned Johnson about the Economic Crime Bill which will go to parliament on Monday. He said he supports it but wishes it to be tightened. One area in particular that concerns him is that while it contains a register of who owns property in the UK, it doesn't come into force for existing owners until 18 months after it is passed.

"Far too long for the Ukrainian people" he said, and pointed out that Putin's allies could "quietly launder their money" out of the UK property market in that time.

Johnson initially repeated his "led the way" refrain about the strength of British sanctions and said they had wiped $250bn worths of assets off the Russian stock market.

He called on Starmer to acknowledge these successes.


Starmer: "I have acknowledged it and I do again, what I'm offering is support to speed this up. This is an invitation to work together."

Starmer repeated his call to work together on the issue.

Johnson: If we can work together to strengthen and accelerate the package, then all the better."

And after listing the sanctions he had "led the way" on once again, Johnson appeared to agree to work with Starmer to address weaknesses in the bill the leader of the opposition had identified.

Starmer said he was "very pleased" to show unity with the Ukrainian ambassador in the room but continued:

Starmer: "Now is the time to sanction every oligarch and crack open ever shell company so we can prove Putin wrong"

Starmer said Putin sees the UK as corrupt for allowing Russian money in the country and not sanctioning every single oligarch. He called on Johnson to do more to root out this money to cripple Russia's economy.

Johnson: "He will fail and we will succeed in protecting Ukraine"

The prime minister finished by condemning Putin once again for his actions and saying that he would fail in seizing Ukraine.

Let's hope he's right.

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