Blog: Why solidarity with Ukraine is the only way

Like everyone else I’ve watched the news of the war in Ukraine with a mixture of disbelief, horror and disgust. And there is no respite in sight

UNISON in solidarity with Ukraine graphic

It’s now two weeks since Putin launched a completely unjustified military assault on a sovereign, democratic European nation and those feelings are only getting stronger each day there is a fresh atrocity – whether that’s an air strike on a nuclear plant or a maternity hospital or the threat of chemical weapons being used on civilians.

With the obvious loss of life and the increasing humanitarian disaster,  we can be in no doubt we are witnessing the worst conflict and the most serious refugee crisis on the continent of Europe since the Second World War. And it’s 2022. It is almost too difficult to believe this is happening. We know that many people in Russia will not support this war and yet they will be the ones who will bear the cost of sanctions – not the wealthy oligarchs.

Who can fail to be moved by the utter heroism of the Ukrainian people from their President Zelensky to the men and women who have turned into a resistance movement, as they fight for their very existence and that of their country in the face of almost unbelievable Russian aggression. People of all ages from teenagers to pensioners fighting the might of the Russian war machine. And sadly many mothers and children turned into refugees overnight.

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This war is a direct attack on the values and beliefs this union and our country hold so dear – democracy, freedom of expression, equality. There can be no oxygen given to anything other than total, unequivocal condemnation of Putin’s actions and we must all be resolute that the only outcome – regardless of the time it takes or the costs – is freedom for Ukraine.

I’m proud that UNISON was the first union to condemn the war on the day Putin invaded. Through our International team we have mobilised support through the International TUC movement, been in regular contact with Ukrainian trade unions, donated money and highlighted how members and branches can practically help.

And if you haven’t already, please read this interview on our website with two Ukrainian trade unionists who went from supporting members one day, to helping them stay alive the next. Their unequivocal heroism is something to behold and we stand with them and all Ukrainians.

There are questions we will need to answer here at home in due course as to how we will cope with the cost of living crisis exacerbated by the war and how the Westminster government can catch up with public sentiment and do more for Ukrainian refuges quicker and better.

And this union will continue to play our part in these debates. But for now we have to be united as a nation and as part of the international trade union movement that democracy – under the guise of the Ukrainian blue and gold flag we are all now so familiar with – must survive, because the alternative is too hideous to contemplate.