Olivia Blake – Clive Betts – Paul Blomfield – Gill Furniss – Louise Haigh

We are sorry that we cannot be with you tonight, as we have to be in Parliament continuing the opposition which Labour has led to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Sheffield has a long tradition of standing up for the rights of people to self-determination and we’re sure that will be reflected in the response to tonight’s rally.

We also have a long history of solidarity with the Ukrainian people, through our twinning with Donetsk.

Russia’s invasion is an appalling assault on a free and democratic country.

Putin’s action follows years of interference since Ukraine, with other former Soviet states, declared its independence in 1990 and began to build relations with the rest of Europe.

Since 2014 the conflict in Eastern Ukraine sponsored by the Kremlin has destroyed homes and communities, killing more than 14,000 people.

Our twin city Donetsk has become a war zone. Now our thoughts go out to people across Ukraine as they face this shocking and unprovoked attack on their country.

We don’t know how events will unfold in the hours and days ahead but, working alongside our NATO allies, we must provide them with the arms that they need to resist the invasion.

With the international community, we must take the toughest possible sanctions against Putin’s regime; ending the UK’s role as a safe haven for the money that Putin and his fellow bandits gained by stealing from the Russian people.

Labour has led calls for the ‘hardest possible sanctions’ against Russia, including ‘excluding Russia from financial mechanisms like SWIFT and banning trade in Russian sovereign debt’ – and we’re pleased to see that there has been movement for action over the weekend.

It must not stop there. The influence of corrupt Russian money must end in UK.  Despite warning after warning, the Government has failed to act, leaving Britain as the destination of choice for oligarchs to hide the wealth they have stolen from the Russian people.

Alongside economic sanctions, we must also isolate Russia – and its client state in Belarus – through a comprehensive boycott. We welcome the action of sports and cultural organisations that have acted already and call for Russia’s exclusion from the FIFA World Cup.

In doing so we will also be supporting those brave Russians who have protested against Putin’s actions – as well as those Belarussians who have stood up to Alexander Lukashenko’s brutal rule.

The unfolding tragedy in Ukraine has seen increasing numbers of people, primarily women and children, fleeing the conflict into neighbouring countries and we must help.

We were appalled by the Government’s unwillingness to offer help, which was summed up by the disgraceful comment from the Immigration Minister over the weekend that those fleeing the war and seeking refuge could apply for seasonal fruit-picking visas – which shames our country.

As the UK’s first City of Sanctuary will welcome refugees from the conflict and the Government must remove the barriers to them coming.

As representatives of Sheffield we stand with Ukraine – now and until they have secured their freedom.

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