A SENIOR Tory MP has suggested that railway strikes are helping Putin because they’re “distracting” from efforts to help Ukraine.

Tobias Ellwood, who serves as the chair of the Commons Defence Committee, told Sky News that unions shouldn’t be “Putin’s friend” and must now return to the negotiating table – despite the fact that the Rail Maritime and Transport union is resuming talks with Network Rail and train companies today.

There has been severe travel disruption across the UK this week amid the strikes, which aim to see improved pay and conditions for railway workers.

READ MORE: ScotRail disruption today amid UK-wide RMT strike action

Around 40,000 members of the RMT at Network Rail and 13 train operators are involved in the industrial action.

While action began on Tuesday, there are further strikes planned for Thursday and Saturday.

Asked for his views on the strike on Sky News, Ellwood told Kay Burley: “We face huge economic headwinds yet here we are causing such huge self-harm as the country is brought to a halt.

“I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government in Europe that is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way.

“I do hope the unions now call off the future planned strikes.”

He went on: “I say to the unions, please don’t be Putin’s friend. Return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again.”

His intervention came as deputy prime minister Dominic Raab insisted the Government must “hold the line” against the RMT’s calls.

The Justice Secretary said the strikes were “deeply regrettable” and reform was necessary on the railways.

“We’ve, of course, got to reform the way the railways operate, given the new ways to working on the effect that has on commuter travel,” he told LBC Radio. “But there are also old practices, which frankly, are well out of date and unnecessary, which need to be reformed.”

He added: “I think Network Rail are taking the right approach. We know that the cost of living challenge is there, we know that it affects workers across the board.

“But the one thing that will keep inflation higher for longer and undermine pay packets for longer is if we have spiralling public sector pay increases beyond what is responsible. And that’s what’s at issue here.

“It is precisely to protect the wages of those on the lowest incomes that we need to hold the line.”

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson put the public on notice for further strike action as Downing Street said it would “not give in” to demands from the rail unions.