I fully support the Chief of the Defence Staff, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, in his rejection of Ukraine's call for a no-fly zone as it would not help tactically and might escalate fighting. He said “the advice that we, as senior military professionals are giving our politicians, is to avoid doing things that are tactically ineffective and definitely to avoid doing things that tactically might lead to miscalculation or escalation."
As he correctly pointed out, most of the shelling and destruction was coming from artillery, not Russian aircraft, and to police a no-fly zone could mean taking out Russian defence systems and shooting down Russian aircraft - leading to an escalation. I fully understand the feeling that people have that something physical must be done on top of the unprecedented sanctions we have imposed on Putin’s Russia, but to exacerbate the dispute and play into Putin’s narrative that this is really about Russia and NATO would potentially be catastrophic.
On the issue of refugees, the UK has steadily increased its visa offer to refugees from the Ukraine war, extending it to parents, grandparents and siblings as well as "immediate family" and extending the visas to three years. I fully support the more generous aim set out by the Prime Minister last week when he said that 200,000 Ukrainians would be eligible to travel to the UK as he extended the offer of visas to a wider range of family members.
We must always remember, however, that many (if not most) refugees want to remain as close to their homes, families and their country as possible. This means that they are likely to want to stay in countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary or Romania.
I will have the opportunity to visit Poland next week and will get a chance to talk to policymakers there about the developing humanitarian crisis. Whatever actions the international community takes, we must always remember that the horrors we are witnessing are entirely as a result of Russia’s brutal invasion, a decision taken by Vladimir Putin, who bears personal liability for the death and destruction in Ukraine.