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A letter from Mel Stride MP: We must step up action on Russia

By Exeter Express and Echo  |  Posted: August 14, 2014

Mel Stride

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FEW can fail to have been moved and disgusted by the scenes surrounding the downing of Malaysian Airline Flight MH17 over Eastern Ukraine.

298 passengers, 10 of them British, including John Allen who died alongside his wife and three children.

The possessions of the dead, scattered bags, clothes, rucksacks – the toys of small children – prodded by Ukrainian separatists, apparently blind to the sensitivities of death.

Friends and family of the perished, already devastated by their loss, having to come to terms with the manner in which the aftermath of this terrible event has been handled.

The brutal facts appear clear – a group of Ukrainian rebels in possession of a mobile anti-aircraft missile launcher fired a rocket at Flight MH17, mistaking it for a military aircraft. The launcher has the technology to allow for the distinction between military and civil but was in the hands of a poorly trained crew.

The result – a horrific tragedy – for which no one, including the perpetrators, could have wished. The destruction of this plane is just another horrific symptom of an increasing threat – Russia.

It is well known that Mr Putin believes that the greatest tragedy ever to befall his mother country was the disintegration of the Soviet Union – the loss of her satellite states.

His response has been to increase the pressure, including military force, against near-neighbours – Georgia in 2008 being a prime example.

More recently, in Ukraine, we have seen the annexation of Crimea – nothing short of the seizure of another country’s sovereign territory. The action is not over in that country of course – with ethnic Russians in a majority in much of Eastern Ukraine and pressing for their region to be subsumed by Russia.

These tensions could have been and still could be resolved through negotiation between Kiev and the regions – perhaps moving to a more federalist structure for the country in which the territorial integrity of the Ukraine is preserved while regional sensitivities are accommodated.

The West has started the process of sanctions – cramping the style (visa bans, bank account freezes) for those around the Russian leader and sanctions have lead to some impact on the Russian economy and stock market. But more needs to be done.

The Prime Minister set this out in his statement to the House of Commons, calling for so-called Level III sanctions that bite on specific sectors of the Russian economy and for greater asset freezes for those close to Mr Putin.

Countries who are dependent upon Russia for gas (Germany for example) or who have lucrative arms deals with them (France) are less up for these measures – but we must find the collective will to take further action.

A nation that flouts international law, disregards the territorial sovereignty of others and is significantly culpable in the downing of a passenger jet carrying almost 300 people will not stop when minor penalties are employed against it – in the case of Russia we need to do more and soon.

Last week I spent a few days out and about across my vast constituency. I held a couple of advice surgeries and also visited an outstanding Okehampton business.

Employing around 30 people, Elemental Microanalysis is a huge success. The business provides consumables for processes used in substance analysis and recently they received the Queens Award for Enterprise, with their products selling in over 100 countries.

Like all successful businesses there is strong leadership and a clear vision with a firm emphasis on quality and continuous improvement. And the success of companies like Elemental Microanalysis should cheer us all.

Their enterprise leads to the taxes that pay for the services that we all rely upon. Their success also matters for jobs – vital to Okey. I visit over a hundred businesses and voluntary organisations a year and I left this company very optimistic about its future.

They have a firm offer from me to help them where I can. I also dropped into discuss issues with local businesses in Chudleigh and enjoyed revisiting the community store at Ide.

In Crediton, I was delighted to pay another visit to the Lady Mills Centre run by Age Concern. I also joined the good people of Chawleigh at a local fete that raised funds to purchase a Defibrillator for the village. As a family we viewed the Rotary Artex Exhibition at Buckfast Abbey – a fantastic event where funds are raised for charity.

On Sunday I joined the Mayor of Ashburton, local councillors and others for a commemoration of those from the town who fell in the Great War. We laid wreaths and there was a service afterwards at St Andrew’s. Our young daughters joined Michelle and myself – the occasion prompting them to many thoughtful questions. It was a moving end to the week.

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