Prevent Ukraine becoming landlocked, protect Odesa

Tobias Ellwood MP, Chair of the Defence Select Committee was interviewed about Ukraine by Cathy Newman on Channel Four News, 06 April 2022. I contacted Mr Ellwood for comment and this remains his position:

We need to protect Odesa and link it up with international waters to prevent Ukraine becoming landlocked and to protect the economy (and potentially find a humanitarian corridor. Moving Ukrainians into the middle of the country only puts civilians at more risk of extermination or starvation.)

Here’s a transcript of Mr Ellwood’s interview:

Cathy Newman: We’ve just witnessed yet more apparent evidence of appalling brutality, you know a body covered in human faeces for example, barbaric, I just wanted your reaction really.

Tobias Ellwood: “These are terrible scenes and you have to ask yourself what will it take for the West to really react and perhaps move up a couple of gears to support the Ukrainians in their hour of need. Britain has done well to support Ukraine prior to the war in providing weapons systems and indeed afterwards but we’re not doing enough to allow Ukraine to push Russia back, we’re not doing enough to stop this sort of brutality.

“In fact we’ve almost given a greenlight for this activity to take place through our hesitance, through our timidity which is being exploited by Putin. I make it really clear we are going to see more scenes like this as Kharkiv and other places like that are eventually exposed.

The Russians are pulling out of Kyiv, Pushing into the Donbas region.

“There’s every likelihood they will take the port of Odesa. If they take the port of Odesa, then Ukraine becomes landlocked, the economy is then destroyed and Putin then will continue his objectives way beyond Ukraine so this should be a massive wake up call for the West. 

Cathy Newman: … Originally you were asking for a no-fly zone. Nato reiterated it didn’t want to escalate things. Is that the right response or are you now saying well we’ve got to move from defensive weapons to offensive weaponry or something more when you talk about moving up a couple of notches?

“When I served in the armed forces I fired many of these weapons, there is nothing defensive about an anti-tank weapon, nothing defensive about a rifle. These are offensive weapons, I can’t believe we are still having semantic debates about this. We see Czech Republic wanting to give tanks, Poland wanted to move it’s mid 29s across.

“We could easily provide a humanitarian zone around the port linking the port to international waters. That would be a robust stance to take against Russia. It would be monitoring this from an escalatory perspective, which wouldn’t see everything suddenly ratcheting up to world war three or a nuclear war which is what we seem to be spooked about.

Cathy Newman: Are we already in this war?

“Yes, this is why I don’t understand why it’s taking so long to get where we’re going. Yes, we’re learning fast, we’re doing enough that Ukraine doesn’t lose but not enough to allow them to win. They are doing all the heavy lifting here.

“The MOD recognises this, it wants to do more. Britain needs to break away and form a coalition of the willing to support Ukraine in the way it is requesting.

“Not just Britain but other nations as well. They are running out of ammunition, running out of fuel, running out of lethal weapons that they are requesting, the large and small ones. Until they get these systems in we’ll see more scenes from Bucha and Mariupol take place as well. I stress there’s another chapter to this war, it’s far from over.

Cathy Newman: Isn’t Russia looking for an excuse to target beyond Ukraine?

Mr Ellwood: “You have seen how Russia twists the message, how they’re selling this as some form of patriotic war, the majority of Russians actually continue bizarrely to support Putin.

“We are finding excuses not to help Ukraine. This won’t stop with Ukraine. We are seeing Germany and Poland increase their defence budgets because they recognised we’ve entered a new era of insecurity.  This is not just about Ukraine, this is about European security and what we’re going to do about it… (Re war crimes) Ensure we collect evidence. It takes many, many years for these people to be brought to the Hague… Russia pulled out of the ICC… Putin is here to stay. There’ll be no purge, there’ll be no coup in Russia.

“This is very much a war that we need to develop the statecraft that we saw during the cold war to better build assessed risk and indeed take calculated risk.”

You can watch Mr Ellwood’s full interview and more about Ukraine on Channel Four News here.