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Cambridge MP calls for ‘full force of sanctions’ against oligarchs at march for Ukraine

Daniel Zeichner, Camridge’s MP, said Russian president Vladimir Putin “must feel the full force of sanctions now” at the start of today’s pro-Ukrainian march in Cambridge as organisers Cambridge University Ukrainian Society said the UK government “could do more” in the war which has already created 1.3 million refugees into neighbouring European countries.

Flowers for Ukraine on Trinity Street. Picture: Mike Scialom
Flowers for Ukraine on Trinity Street. Picture: Mike Scialom

Speaking to the crowd gathered outside the Sedgwick site on Sedgwick Avenue ahead of the march, Daniel Zeichner said: “This unprovoked and unjustifiable war is having dreadful consequences for Ukrainian people. Every day brings more shocking news and more suffering. And as Europeans, that something like this is happening in Europe, brings the full horror into sharp focus.

“I would have never expected to be talking this way about Europe. For my generation who remember the Prague Spring and the fall of the Berlin Wall we think of Europe and we think of hope not war.

Daniel Zeichner MP speaks at the march. Picture: Keith Heppell
Daniel Zeichner MP speaks at the march. Picture: Keith Heppell

“As a country it is right to impose punitive sanctions. But Putin must feel the full force of sanctions now. As Keir Starmer has said, more than a week into the war we have sanctioned only 11 oligarchs and we are falling behind the EU and US. The government must also accelerate the clean-up of dirty money that for too long has damaged our economy and our democracy.

“And we must welcome refugees. No more insulting ideas about letting refugees pick fruit. No more delays to letting family members join loved ones. The government must act and do all what decent people know they should do.

The City of London has laundered an estimated £150bn of cash for properties bought by Russians accused of links to the Kremlin or corruption
The City of London has laundered an estimated £150bn of cash for properties bought by Russians accused of links to the Kremlin or corruption

“Cambridge always been a city of sanctuary and we are European to our core. This is about our values of freedom, liberty, tolerance, democracy. They must prevail.”

Around 600 people walked from the Sedgwick site – home to the Faculties of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, and Philosophy – into the city centre, with chants of ‘Stop Putin Now’ and ‘Sanctions Now’. The route went along King’s Parade, up Trinity Street to Quayside and on to Shire Hall, where more speakers addressed the marchers.

They included Dr Rory Finnin, associate professor of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Cambridge; Dr Olenka Pevny, lecturer in Early Slavonic Culture with an emphasis on Ukraine; Paul Brown, chair, Cambridge for Europe; and members of the Cambridge University Ukrainian Society (CUUS). CUUS speakers included Stepan Blinder, a PhD student in Slavonic Studies at Fitzwilliam College, opera singer Anna Starushkevych, and IT consultant Anatolii Pavlovskyi.

Another CUUS speaker at the event was Andrii Smytsniuk, the Slavonic section’s first full-time Ukrainian language teaching officer, who leads the development of the Ukrainian language programme at the University of Cambridge. He told the Cambridge Independent that Daniel Zeichner’s “main message is that the UK government has to do more if I may summarise it like that”.

‘Stand for Ukraine’ supporters approaching Quayside
‘Stand for Ukraine’ supporters approaching Quayside

Andrii, like so many other Ukrainians in the UK, has been following the barbaric events taking place in Ukraine closely.

“I do have family in Ukraine,” he said, “in a relatively safe space in the west of Ukraine. The city they live in has been bombed but not so severely as the south and east – and the north. They’re not making plans to leave.”

Does he support their choice?

“I respect their decision, I can’t say I support it but they want to stay there. I respect their opinion and they want to stay in their own country. They get air strike alerts [in the region] once a day but they’re in a little village so there’s no air strikes there, there’s no military bases nearby.”

Is communication good?

“They do have internet but UK operators are now providing free calls. Giffgaff have free calls which is very much appreciated by me at least. [Giffgaff is a ‘virtual’ provider, which means it uses another provider’s infrastructure – in this case O2’s. It offers 3G, 4G and 5G coverage.]

How does he see this situation developing?

“Ideally in a country when the president does something the people do not agree with, they get a new president. But the problem in Russia is that it is not a democracy, and there have many occasions where people tried to protest in Russia but Russia does not have an opposition. It’s not possible to have a strong opposition with leaders who are killed like Boris Nemtsov or imprisoned like Navalny, so basically that means change happens only if someone very close to Putin seizes power, and this is possible because the oligarchs are not happy they’re losing so much money.

“I do very much appreciate the UK government’s support for the people of Ukraine but, based on the Budapest Memorandum [security assurances made to Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan in 1994 which saw the three nations give up their nuclear weapons], I’d say the the UK government is very closely aligned with Ukraine but it’s still a war and they could do more.”

A vigil for those suffering in the aerial and land-based bombardments taking place in Ukraine is due to take place at noon tomorrow (Sunday) at Great St Mary’s church.

Placard at Cambridge march for Ukraine. Pictures: Mike Scialom
Placard at Cambridge march for Ukraine. Pictures: Mike Scialom

“It’s non-religious so there will be representatives of different faiths, though it is still essentially the Anglican Church,” said Andrii, adding: “We’re still meeting at King’s Parade daily starting at 5.30pm from Monday.”

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