By helping Ukraine bolster its fuel security for the winter months and beyond, we will further isolate the Russian leader
GRANT SHAPPS 23 August 2023 •
Travelling across the Polish border into Ukrainethis week, I couldn’t help but think of the millions of people who made the journey in the opposite direction as Vladimir Putin launched his brutal attack on their country.
Cramming onto trains while Russian missiles rained down, they would have been petrified – fearing for their lives, not knowing what the future held for them or for loved ones left behind.
How would they feed their children? Would they see their husbands alive again? Would they have homes to return to?
I heard about this terrifying ordeal firsthand from Snezhana Chaykina, her young son Nikita, and his grandmother Hanna, who stayed with my family under the Homes for Ukraine scheme for a year following the invasion.
They were living in Kyiv when Putin began his indiscriminate bombardment and had to run for cover in a makeshift bomb shelter in the basement of their building as explosions rocked the city.
Nikita’s kindergarten was damaged, and the family made the decision to flee.
Carrying what they could, including their dog, Max, they trudged past ruined buildings to the station on the other side of the city and said a heartbreaking goodbye to Snezhana’s husband, who had to stay in Ukraine.
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I cannot emphasise enough the impact living with this extraordinary family and hearing their story has had on me and my family.
Now I have seen for myself the trail of destruction and misery that Putin’s bloody war has left in Ukraine, and it is agonising.
Beautiful historic buildings lie badly damaged, grieving families are left mourning the deaths of loved ones.
On Tuesday, two days before Ukraine’s Independence Day, I was walking through St Michael’s Square in the centre of Kyiv, where those who have lost their lives defending Ukraine are honoured on a wall of photographs.
In a nearby street, burned-out Russian tanks and armoured vehicles powerfully illustrate the enemy at their door.
High above, the golden domes of St Michael’s Cathedral glisten as a beacon of hope for the future.
During my visit, I was touched to visit Nikita’s kindergarten and show the children and staff a video message he had recorded for them.
It was incredibly moving to see these innocent children, who are living under the threat of Putin, still singing, playing, and laughing.
Indeed, throughout my time in Ukraine, I saw a brave and defiant people, standing strong in the face of a tyrant and united in their determination to rebuild their wonderful country.
Last winter, Ukrainians stood resilient against a barrage of blackouts, never knowing if the lights would stay on or if they could keep their homes warm in sub-zero temperatures.
We have supported them on repairs – and today, our actions go a step further, paving the way towards a £192 million nuclear fuel financing agreement.
This will bolster Ukraine’s energy security by supplying vital fuel for the country’s plants over the coming winter.
And it will further isolate Putin, ending their dependence on Russian supplies.
We should all take pride in the role the UK is playing, not just in helping Ukraine’s military repel Putin’s forces, but also aiding the country’s recovery.
Russia has used energy as a weapon of war. We have felt this in the UK, where energy bills soared as Putin attempted to blackmail us.
To stop this ever happening again, we are boosting our homegrown energy supply. We are home to the world’s four largest offshore wind farms and have recently announced a new round of oil and gas licences in the North Sea.
But this is an international issue that requires an international response. That is why we are also working with countries around the world to shore up critical energy supplies and rewire global energy resilience.
But as Ukrainians struggling to stay warm last winter will testify, Putin has also deliberately targeted their country’s energy infrastructure.
I saw for myself the damage caused to one of Kyiv’s power stations by Russian shelling. But I also saw the repairs well under way and the preparations for the coming winter. This is symbolic of the recovery taking place in Ukraine.
I was pleased to hear directly from senior government ministers during my time in Kyiv about the progress being made.
There is still much to do. However, the UK remains unwavering in our support. We will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Ukrainian people.
I hope one day soon, Snezhana, Nikita and Hanna – and countless families like them – will have the opportunity to return safely to Ukraine.
And as they cross the border into their homeland, feelings of separation, fear and loss will be replaced by those of reunion, joy and victory.
Grant Shapps is the Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero