THE invasion of Ukraine has created the greatest crisis on our continent since the end of the Second World War. It is a crisis caused by one man, Vladimir Putin.

The scale of the destruction is devastating. Thousands have been killed and millions have been displaced. Russian attacks against civilians, including against a pre-school and a maternity hospital, have been widely reported.

The Russian government claims that it is trying to minimise civilian casualties, but in reality it is using ballistic missiles and other explosive weapons in densely populated areas.

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There are even reports of Russian forces using cluster bombs, a type of weapon so deadly and indiscriminate that more than 100 governments have signed a treaty to ban their use.

There can be no justification for the invasion, which is an immoral and illegal act of aggression.

Ukraine is a sovereign, democratic nation whose people have the inalienable right to self-determination. It is a European nation, as its people have made clear by majority vote time after time in recent years.

Putin’s claim that his invasion is intended to de-Nazify the country is not only offensive, it’s plainly ridiculous when directed at one of the only nations on the planet to have ever simultaneously had a Jewish prime minister and president, the incumbent Volodymyr Zelensky.

The National: Vladimir Putin is the only man to blame for the crisis, says Ross GreerVladimir Putin is the only man to blame for the crisis, says Ross Greer

It is important that we stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian friends. But words alone are not enough. Solidarity with Ukraine must mean the implementation of sweeping sanctions against the Kremlin, Russian elites and companies which support Putin and his regime. This must include far-reaching measures against any bank or organisation connected to Russia’s arms industry and military.

The City of London is a tax haven full of the Russian elite’s assets, so the UK is uniquely positioned to hit Putin’s closest associates hard by simply tackling the rampant money laundering which takes place within our own borders.

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We must also ensure that Putin has no voice in our politics: whether that means politicians of all parties refusing to go on Russian state mouthpieces like RT or Sputnik, or the Conservatives offering full transparency about their funding and handing back all of the dodgy donations they’ve received from Kremlin associates.

At First Minister’s Questions yesterday I urged the Scottish Government to halt the payment of agricultural subsidies and other forms of state support for estates and companies here which are owned by Kremlin associates. This follows revelations that the Aberuchill estate, owned by Vladimir Lisin, one of Russia’s wealthiest men, has received hundreds of thousands of pounds in subsidies.

I was delighted that the First Minister agreed to our call for an immediate review of all relevant schemes and that we are taking action against Putin’s associates here in Scotland.

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The most urgent and important thing that we can do is to provide safety and support for refugees and people who have been impacted by the war. That can only happen if governments like the UK agree to waive visas and allow safe and direct routes, rather than offering warm words while closing the door.

Some of the measures the UK has announced are welcome, but the Home Office response has, predictably, been to force people fleeing war to jump through a number of hoops before they can apply for visas to find safety. A visa waiver similar to what our neighbours such as Ireland have already done would be a good first step in terms of allowing safe passage to the UK.

ON Wednesday I met a Ukrainian resident of Edinburgh who was called this week by her sister-in-law back in Ukraine. She is a nurse who is staying to treat the wounded and her husband is staying to fight, but they begged their family here to take their children. Outrageously, UK visa rules still won’t allow this.

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The humanitarian catastrophe we saw in Afghanistan cannot be repeated in Ukraine. It is vital that the UK joins the rest of Europe in showing some practical solidarity, especially for those most at risk such as journalists and LGBTQ people.

Human rights cannot be negotiable, and we cannot be selective about who they apply to. The reality is that, despite his appalling human rights record, Putin was not always considered an enemy in European capitals.

In fact, following his election in 1999, Putin’s first visit to the West was to London. While there he received the full red-carpet treatment; greeted on the steps of Downing Street and meeting the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

He made a similar visit in 2003, where he was given a state banquet. Some of the statements made at the time have aged terribly, with the Queen praising his “dedication to the task of reforming and strengthening Russia’s economy, [and] improving the quality of life for ordinary Russians.”

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The UK went as far as arming Putin right up until the invasion of Crimea in 2014. The arms sales stopped following the invasion, but by that point tens of millions of pounds worth of weapons had already been exported.

This pattern of arming and welcoming despots, dictatorships and human rights abusers has been repeated time and again, whether in relation to Saudi Arabia, Israel Turkey or a litany of other abusers. Right now, UK-made weapons are playing a central role in the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, which has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

That is why all governments must take a consistent human rights-based approach to foreign policy. Boris Johnson and his colleagues are right to denounce Putin’s authoritarianism and his terrible war, but they are also responsible for cozying-up to autocrats and fuelling suffering in Yemen and beyond.

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It is imperative that every democratic nation stands with Ukraine and oppressed people around the world. The Scottish Parliament’s powers here may be extremely limited but we are doing everything that we can to contribute in some way to a just and peaceful resolution.

Khay zhyve Ukrayina. Long live a free and independent Ukraine.