We all remember waking up, a year ago today, to the most dreadful scenes on the news.
But Putin’s barbaric illegal full-scale invasion of Ukraine began, what we could not be sure of was that his gamble would fail in such a spectacular fashion.
In the face of his imperial ambitions and the numerical might of the Russian army, Putin thought Ukraine would just roll over. And while those atrocities have not stopped, and Putin’s barbarism has not yet been halted, it is undeniable - it’s turned into a military embarrassment for Vladimir Putin.
Why? Because he underestimated the Ukrainians. Their commitment to those values that we too hold so dear - democracy, liberty and human rights. He underestimated their fortitude and bravery in the face of, in the words of President Zelensky, the most unimaginable hardships - bravery which will lead them to victory.
Putin underestimated us and our allies in Europe, North America and across the world, too. He bet that we would be divided when it mattered most. That, when push came to shove, we would take the easy option - words, not deeds. And that he would get his way. How wrong he was.
Our unity makes Putin afraid. Not just the UK’s unity with our allies - but unity within our countries too. I have been so proud of the support I see in this country. The British public showed their deep-seated generosity last year, opening their doors to Ukrainians. And whenever I travel to different parts of the country there’s not a town or village I pass through without Ukrainian flags flying proudly.
Britain stands with Ukraine. Liberal Democrats stand with Ukraine.
And we will continue, in particular, to stand with our sister parties. The Holos party, led by Kira Rudik, showed true global leadership - particularly on the question of sanctions and of repurposing frozen Russian assets to help reconstruct Ukraine. And the Servant of the People Party, led by President Zelensky, a democratic hero for our age.
And as we enter the second year of the invasion, Liberal Democrats will continue to stand fullsquare behind President Zelensky and with the whole of Ukraine.
That means urging the Government to explore all options in fulfilling his request for more equipment, including jets. I hope that the Prime Minister has been using the recent opportunity of the Munich Security Conference to personally appeal to our allies to do so.
We will continue to make the case that we should fulfil President Zelensky’s call of treating Russia as a terrorist state, which he has made in both his speeches to Parliament, by proscribing the Wagner Group. Putin’s mercenaries are carrying out atrocities in Ukraine on a daily basis. It’s time to treat Russia as the rogue state it is.
And it’s vital that we do not rest on our laurels while Putin’s cronies continue to get away with it. Liberal Democrats have been calling for an economic retaliation package - starting by closing down the lucrative loopholes that funnel Putin’s illegal wealth to his dwindling front line. And we will continue to urge the Government to publish the review of golden visas - which was commissioned nearly five years ago.
Over the last year, we have seen the worst of humanity - and the best. Liberal Democrats continue to be proud to stand shoulder to shoulder against tyranny, and we will stand with Ukraine until they are victorious.