The Ukrainian ambassador to the UK has issued a plea for continued “generosity” and “patience” from those offering a home to refugees in Britain.
Vadym Prystaiko said Ukraine needs “much more” help from the UK as the country fights back against Moscow’s invasion, with the partial mobilisation of Russian reservists amounting to “something formidable”.
Addressing a fringe event hosted by Labour Friends of Ukraine in Liverpool, the ambassador said people who found refuge in the UK through the Government’s sponsorship scheme continue to need support.
“We hoped to reach a six-month period by the sponsorship agreement between most of the UK citizens and Ukrainians who came here,” he said.
“I just hope that the generosity, tolerance, kindness, patience of these people will allow us to engage with Ukrainians who still need some support here.”
He added: “Still we need support here, helping these people to go through the most difficult times of the war.”
In March, the Government launched the Homes for Ukraine scheme so people could sponsor refugees fleeing the war-torn country by offering a spare room or home for at least six months.
Ministers have since faced calls to consider increasing the monthly thank-you payments to hosts who extend their offer beyond the initial period they committed to.
Mr Prystaiko said it should be Russia that pays to rebuild Ukraine.
“I know there are so many generous people in nations around the globe, who told us, ‘don’t worry guys, we will help you to rebuild’. I believe the Russians have to pay for this, not you, not your taxpayers’ money,” he said.
But he said Ukraine needs “much more” help from the UK.
“This assistance is needed again and again and again,” he added.
The ambassador said the partial mobilisation of Russian reservists looks to be “something formidable”.
“We are adults here and I have to be frank with you,” he said.
“We obviously understand that three, four, five (hundred) thousand people Russia has promised to mobilise… this make a difference in the battlefield.
“Yes, Russians will struggle to re-arm them, feed them, equip them, and most of these people are not fit for… service. But (the) sheer mass of these people is something formidable.”
Also speaking at the event, shadow foreign secretary David Lammy said the ambassador must “never, ever forget” that Labour will “always stand with the Ukrainian people”.
This sentiment was reiterated by fellow panellist John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, who said: “There will be a change in government in this country, but let Putin be clear: there will be a change to Labour, but there will be no change in British support and solidarity in Ukraine and in our national determination to confront Russian aggression.”
Mr Prystaiko said Mr Putin’s nuclear threats “are just trying to raise the bargaining hand”.
Mr Healey also described them as “an escalation of rhetoric”.
“It’s the sort of move from the Putin playbook we’ve seen before,” he said.
“And it is designed to undermine our Western will to stand with Ukraine.
“What we need to make most clear is that this will make no difference to the determination of the West. We stand together and we stand with Ukraine.”
On a lighter note, Mr Prystaiko said Ukraine is happy to share its culture with the UK, and learn something in return.
But he made clear there is nothing to be learned from British cooking, which drew a big laugh from the packed audience.