'With Putin's attack we must tackle London's dirty money'

Demonstrators in London protesting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine

Demonstrators in London protesting against Russia's invasion of Ukraine - Credit: André Langlois

Like so many I have been watching in horror at the scenes from Ukraine following Russia’s unprovoked and unjustifiable invasion. But I have also been moved and inspired by the tenacity and determination demonstrated by the Ukrainian people in the darkest hour of their recent history. 

With his actions in the past week, Putin has shown he has no regard for international law or human decency, and he has openly claimed that Ukraine has no claim to be a sovereign nation while chillingly speaking of the planned “denazification” of a state governed by an elected Jewish president.  

This is wrong and insulting to the Ukrainian people, and all of us in the international community have a moral responsibility to stand by our Ukrainian allies in their attempts to defend their country and their democratic and sovereign wish to chart their own course as a nation. 

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green

Catherine West, MP for Hornsey and Wood Green - Credit: Chris McAndrew

This is not a battle just for Ukraine or for territory that Putin wrongly believes belongs to him, but a struggle for the ideals and system of government which we all too often take for granted.  

If President Putin is allowed to succeed in his aims to carve open Ukraine’s borders, deny the Ukrainian people their democratic choice, and smash the international rules-based order then the system which we have relied on for global security since 1945 will be seriously damaged and it will act as the greenlight for other nations across the world to challenge the established notions of statehood and national sovereignty. 

This will be a dangerous world to live in, and it’s essential we do what we can to prevent it happening.  

To their credit, in the past few days the British government has worked tirelessly with NATO and European allies to support Ukraine and bring swift and substantial action against President Putin’s government, and my Labour colleagues and I have been clear that we fully support the British Government in their actions to date.  

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But it’s obvious and imperative that we must go further, and we must start by getting our own house in order. As part of Labour’s foreign policy team, I have consistently highlighted the issue of the so-called “London Laundromat” and the stain of dirty money in our city and made it clear we should be taking urgent steps to ensure Putin’s circle of acolytes and oligarchs no longer feel welcome in London.  

The policies and actions which would shut down the dirty money swirling through our system are well known – a beefed-up Economic Crime Bill, reform of Companies House, a register of Overseas Entities Bill – and the onus is now on the government to finally act.

Our European allies have led the way in fundamentally reviewing and reshaping their economic policies, military readiness, and energy security in response to the hostility of Russia and we should follow them in revaluating and swiftly changing our domestic protections. 

Along with these measures to protect our democracy and our allies from malign Russian influence, and to hold President Putin to account, we should follow our EU allies in providing refuge for the thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the conflict.

The conflict has been thrust on their nation by Putin’s notions of historical revisionism and his fears of an emerging liberal democracy on his doorstep, and it is our duty to provide a sanctuary to those who are fleeing his tanks and bombs and who – in many cases – would risk their lives living in areas occupied by an oppressive authoritarian state. 

Catherine West said the policies that would prevent the circulation of dirty money are well known

Catherine West said the policies that would prevent the circulation of dirty money are well known, including "a beefed-up Economic Crime Bill, reform of Companies House, and a register of Overseas Entities Bill" - Credit: André Langlois

We’re not yet seeing the government’s warm words backed up by sufficient action to help those in desperate need of our support now, and my inbox has been filled by emails from residents in Hornsey and Wood Green demanding more action from home secretary Priti Patel to ensure we live up to our obligations in these most desperate of times. 

These are dark times for Europe, and we must stand with Ukraine in their hour of need. The consequences of doing nothing more, and abandoning Ukraine to its fate, are not something we should accept or consider. The world is watching. 

Catherine West (Lab) is MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, and a shadow foreign minister.