Putin and his band of thieves must be brought to justice – COMMENTARY | Express a comment | Comment

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It was a historic moment. President Zelensky became the first foreign leader to address the chamber of the House of Commons. Dressed in military fatigues and broadcasting from Kiev, where he remains despite more than a dozen assassination attempts, his words were a powerful lesson in leadership. That’s courage and integrity.

It has now been more than two weeks since Putin’s army unleashed a wave of air strikes and missiles and declared war on Ukraine. We are starting to see the shape of the damage.

Thousands of innocent Ukrainians have been murdered by Russian forces. Children in kindergartens. Pregnant women in maternity wards. Families fleeing along supposedly safe humanitarian corridors.

The cost of this war is incalculable. Lives. Families. Our shared future knowledge.

And it’s not over. As you read this, shells are raining down on homes and hospitals. New towns are surrounded. Putin’s list of war crimes is piling up.

One man’s deranged ego fuels the suffering of millions.

Putin is following a playbook his armed forces have already brutally tested in Syria.

Russian forces surround towns and shell them for weeks, indiscriminately targeting civilians. The tactics of extreme violence gradually undermine morale.

And the fear is that it could get worse. The Russian state has now started sowing lies about chemical weapons. Lies, lies and more lies are all part of the Russian campaign.

Everything is intended to cover the tracks in an attempt to sow doubt.

But we know what is real. We have seen images of bombarded cities. Mariupol mass graves. Ukrainian families share stories of their sisters, fathers and children murdered by Russian attacks.

We must ask ourselves what more can we do to end this horror. Has the UK done everything in its power?

We have seen the West show unity. Russia has been roundly condemned at the UN.

The government eventually used its powers to hit more of Putin’s cronies with sanctions.

Finally, we saw the assets of Abramovich and his ilk frozen. The UK has now sanctioned 400 members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament.

This directly targets the oligarchs and politicians who support Putin’s regime. And these are serious measures in response to serious crimes. Sanctioned oligarchs can no longer conduct financial transactions with individuals in the UK.

Of course, the sanctions here also have a real cost. Sanctioning Abrahamovich has left Chelsea – one of Europe’s biggest football clubs – in limbo.

Energy and commodity prices are rising everywhere. We were already feeling the effect of inflation at home. Now petrol prices have risen over £1.60. The price of bread could increase by 50%.

This is the price Putin makes us all pay for the war.

For the sanctions to have an effect, we will have to go further.

There are still hundreds of members of the Russian elite, free to steal and spend their stolen money in London.

Should children of corrupt Russian politicians be able to buy £4m flats in Kensington?

Should they be given the opportunity to attend the best UK schools and universities?

Freedom and prosperity in Britain are a hard-won privilege, not a right for the families of war criminals.

It’s not just the oligarchs. The Russian state does not operate in a vacuum. It lives from a network of facilitators.

Former prime ministers of European nations have served on the boards of Russian state-owned companies.

Russian disinformation is pumped through social media platforms from the West. British lawyers working for oligarchs are filing multi-million pound lawsuits against journalists who expose the truth about the Kremlin.

All these actors must take their responsibilities. Their actions facilitated a regime that is now waging war against innocent civilians in Europe.

These civilians are now trying to flee. 2.5 million people have already left Ukraine. 2 million have been internally displaced. Several million more are trying to escape. They face long and arduous journeys, often on foot in the freezing cold.

We all have a duty to welcome our fair share of refugees who have managed to flee a war zone in Europe. We must urgently speed up the process of allowing Ukrainians to reunite with their families here in Britain.

And for the only man responsible for this chaos and this suffering, he must face the price of his actions.

Just as in Nuremberg in 1946, the international community will have to unite to organize a special tribunal to prosecute Putin for crimes of aggression.

Putin and his gang of thieves must be brought to justice.

*Tom Tugendhat chairs the foreign affairs select committee and served as an officer in Iraq and Afghanistan

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