Tougher sanctions needed against Putin – says Newcastle’s MP

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22 Jul 2014

The Labour MP for Newcastle, Paul Farrelly, has called for tougher financial sanctions against Russia following the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 last week.

Speaking during yesterday’s emergency debate in the House of Commons, Mr Farrelly criticised the UK government’s timidity in the steps taken against Russian President Vladimir Putin after his annexation of the Crimea and the continuing destabilisation of the Ukraine.

Earlier this year, the government was embarrassed when officials were photographed walking into Downing Street with policy papers clearly visible, cautioning about the impact of wider punitive action on London’s financial markets.

Questioning PM David Cameron during the debate, Mr Farrelly said:

‘The revelation, to waiting cameras, of previous advice to government over the effect of sanctions against Russia on the City of London gave the dreadful impression that the UK, too, was just following its own narrow interests. When, frankly, London would be much better off without much of that tainted Russian money.’

‘After this latest abominable act, is it not time for much harsher financial sanctions against Russia, including the denial of use - at all levels - of international payment systems in London, Frankfurt, Paris, New York and all across the world?’

All 298 people on board flight MH17, including 80  children and 10 Britons, were killed in the incident which took place close to the Ukraine-Russia border. While Russia has been quick to blame Ukrainian government forces, Western nations have pointed to overwhelming evidence of the involvement of rebels and a Russian-supplied missile battery in the attack.

In his Commons response, Cameron said that Britain would be discussing these issues as part of its negotiations over the EU’s response to the crisis, adding that, ‘although there are a lot of Russian money and Russian businesses in Britain, Britain is not the back-marker in arguing for tougher sanctions; we are usually in the vanguard, with the Poles and Baltic states, arguing that we need to give a strong, clear and predictable lead on these issues.’

Mr Cameron also described the attack as a ‘defining moment’ for Moscow and called on the EU to consider an arms embargo – including a halt to the supply by France of two helicopter carriers - in addition to possible further financial sanctions.

Subsequently, however, it has been revealed that Britain has been supplying Russia with arms and military spare parts, despite the Prime Minister’s stance.

This week, despite its previous reluctance to do so, the government also announced a public enquiry into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

The ex-KGB officer died in 2006 in a London hospital after he was poisoned with radioactive polonium. The UK government now plans to investigate whether Russian agents were involved, as has been widely alleged.

You can read Paul's article on the Russia-Ukraine conflict in this weekend's Sentinel by clicking here.