MP Daniel Kawczynski: What I meant by my Ukrainian refugee comments

Shrewsbury MP Daniel Kawczysnki explains his controversial and widely-criticised comments about how to help the people of Ukraine.

Daniel Kawczynski is the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury
Daniel Kawczynski is the Conservative MP for Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury's Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski was widely criticised this week for comments on Twitter about Ukraine. He said "left-wing demands" for Britain to take in more refugees were "illiterate and immoral". Here he explains his words:

As the only Member of Parliament born in Eastern Europe, I have built up a relationship with the Ukraine ambassador over the last few years as we have watched his country coming under increasing pressure from neighbouring Russia. We could see not only the build-up of troops, but also beforehand, an attempt by Russia to strangle the Ukraine economy by building an undersea gas pipeline directly to Germany. This would have given the Russians the opportunity to cut off energy supplies to Ukraine whilst protecting their lucrative western European markets.

I spoke out against this on many occasions and tried to warn my fellow parliamentarians that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline would be a huge threat to our colleagues in the Ukraine. I even called on our own government to take a lead last year to implement sanctions against all companies involved in the construction of this pipeline. We have also seen in previous months the Russians using the annexe from Ukraine Kerch Straights to block international shipping to the Ukrainian coast.

I admire and value enormously the response of millions of people in the front-line states of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, bordering Ukraine, who have taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees. The millions of Ukrainians who have crossed the border to Poland are a powerful symbol of their determination to seek safety but at the same time to be as close as possible to their loved ones who have been left behind to fight this war. The emotional pain and suffering they go through daily knowing that their loved ones are on the front line and in danger is difficult to imagine.

Refugees fleeing Ukraine after the Russian invasion

The priority for our government must and should be to financially support countries like Poland to help in looking after these millions of citizens who have fled tyranny.

I wanted however with the point I made on Twitter, to underline that President Putin is deliberating targeting civilians in residential areas because he wants to engineer panic and fear leading to the withdrawal from the region of millions of Ukrainians. This of course will be a green light for him in his attempts to either carve out vast geographical junks to be incorporated into Russia, or to control Ukraine as a puppet client state the way he does with neighbouring Belarus. The Ukraine government itself is making the point that the greatest assets Ukraine has are its people. The Ukrainian government is quoted as saying it wants "as many Ukrainians as possible to remain in the region so they can quickly return to rebuild the country when it is safe".

A point I also sought to make on Twitter is that the attacks on the Conservative government are unjustified and misplaced. No country is Europe has done more to equip and train the Ukrainian army, not just over the last few days but over the last several years, and no country in Europe has done more to send humanitarian aid to Ukraine. In response to the attacks that our government has come under that we are not doing enough to help these refugees, I made the point that the level and type of support we are giving is appropriate to this early stage of the war when we don’t yet know what the outcome will be.

It has been inspiring and admirable to see in Britain how communities across our island have come together to collect medicines, food and clothing to be sent on trucks to Poland, including the solidarity and commitment shown to their Ukrainian neighbours by the UK’s Polish communities.

This level of support and camaraderie is likened to the period when the communist dictator of Poland introduced Marshall Law to snuff out and defeat the Solidarity movement.

We welcome in any case, Ukrainian refugees who of their own choice and volition wish to leave the region entirely to seek sanctuary in Britain. My office team and I have reached out to Ukrainians in my constituency to give them any assistance they require at this difficult time.

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