Ukraine: Fife stands united in condemnation of Russian attacks

Fife Council has stood united in cross-party condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine in an unprecedented show of solidarity with all those affected by the conflict.

By Craig Smith, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 10th March 2022, 3:46 pm

Fife Council has stood united in cross-party condemnation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine in an unprecedented show of solidarity with all those affected by the conflict.

Councillor after councillor spoke during a lengthy and at times emotional debate during Thursday’s full council meeting - all in support of Ukraine and its people, all in criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his illegal war.

And while the words of elected members over a Microsoft Teams call might not mean much in the grand scheme of things, the combined contributions certainly conveyed Fife Council’s dismay and disgust at the invasion and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

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Nataliya Mykolaivna, 64, gestures as she talks to AFP journalist next to a minibus, bringing supplies and gifts to frontline soldiers volunteers and hard-pressed residents, destroyed by Russian shelling (Photo by SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP via Getty Images)

SNP councillor Craig Walker, who spoke first to move a motion to that effect, set the tone.

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“This motion is the kind of motion I thought we would never have to discuss at full council,” he said.

“On February 24, we woke up in a different world. I think it’s fair to say we were stunned, and while the levels of power lie beyond this chamber, we are not helpless.

A woman who has fled war-town Ukraine holds a baby as she walks to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish Ukrainian border (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“I had hoped the days of one country invading another were behind us: that it is a nuclear armed totalitarian regime invading a democratic country using teenage conscripts to do its dirty work is all the more galling.

“I cannot comprehend the brutality of the mind that encircles and raises cities without allowing any meaningful evacuation of innocent civilians.

“I accept that there will be those who will say it’s not the responsibility of Fife Council to discuss matters outwith its responsibilities, and that what we say won’t change things on the ground.

Women and children who have fled war-town Ukraine walk to board a train to transport them to Przemysl main train station after crossing the Polish Ukrainian border (Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images)

“While I accept this motion won’t turn tanks around, we know from recent history that showing solidarity with oppressed people does give them strength and hope.”

His motion was seconded by Councillor Ann Verner, who was visibly upset while discussing the shocking plight of Ukrainians and the bombing of a maternity hospital earlier this week.

She commented: “War is a ghastly thing, made more real by the threat of nuclear weapons. The threat of that terrifies me.

“As a mother and grandmother, I can truly empathise with those Ukrainian women watching their husbands, brothers, sons and grandsons standing up and fighting for their freedom.”

Council co-leader Councillor David Ross tabled an amendment, which was accepted, which also called on the Home Office to “relax, expand and streamline” arrangements for Ukrainian refugees coming to the country.

“We need to play our part as the UK in this and we need to see a much speedier response,” he stressed.

His Labour colleague Councillor Judy Hamilton seconded, adding: “We need to act now.”

Conservative councillor Kathleen Leslie also tabled an amendment, which was similarly accepted, which sought to recognise and thank Fifers for the contributions they have made thus far and confirm support for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

But while she praised the UK government for much they have done thus far, she said her support was not out of “blind loyalty” and criticised the response on the refugee issue.

“The Home Office does need to get this sorted because up until now there’s been a lot of words but not enough being done,” she acknowledged.

Seconding that, Conservative colleague Darren Watt described Russia’s actions as “barbaric and horrifying”.

He said: “Despite our own personal crisis with energy bills going up, we have already seen incredible generosity and kindness from people across Fife.

“They should be very proud and, as an elected representative, I am very proud of them.”

Many councillors opted to don blue and yellow clothing during the debate, while others had Ukrainian flags or images as their Microsoft Teams backgrounds.

One of the more personal contributions came from Conservative councillor Tony MIklinski, who has relatives in Poland not far from the Ukrainian border.

He explained: “My father finished fighting the Nazis in the Second World War when the Russians invaded from the east and, given that his home town is 25 miles from the Ukrainian border, he took a week or two to get back there to find that his father, as a local lawyer, had been put up against a wall and shot on day one by the Russian invaders, who then collected up all the other intelligencia and potential leaders of society, took them off to the Katyn Forest and murdered them in their thousands.

“The Russians haven’t changed their spots, or should I say the leadership hasn’t.

“My cousins and their children and grandchildren who are living in or around Zamość, 25 miles from the border, are living in fear of Russian onslaught once again and watching tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees streaming through their town as we speak.

“Putin now judges that we in the west don’t have the will to fight to defend ourselves. We’ve become decadent, we’ve been preoccupied with infighting and division, and we’ve hollowed out our military and even flirted with the idea of unilateral nuclear disarmament.

“Putin will not stop because he’s asked to, or because he’s causing too many casualties.

“He’ll stop when we deploy sufficient military force to destroy his materiel and the will and morale of the Russian forces to fight.”

Provost Jim Leishman thanked everyone for their input at the conclusion of the debate and praised all those playing their part in supporting Ukraine.

“It’s a grave situation and I’m very proud of every one who is standing up for the underdog just now,” he concluded.

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