senedd wales

senedd wales

The Senedd in solidarity with Ukraine

Published 03/03/2022   |   Reading Time minutes

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been met with international condemnation.

Parliaments around the world have halted proceedings to condemn the invasion, lit up their buildings in solidarity and applauded protestors in Ukraine and Russia.

On 1 March, the Senedd added its voice. In a St David’s Day message, the Llywydd called on the Senedd to “pause and reflect on international events and how important our democratic structures are and how fragile they can be”.

This article summarises the responses of the Welsh Government and the Senedd. We summarise what powers Wales has in the context of matters raised by the conflict. We signpost next steps and describe the Welsh Government’s stated ambition to become a “globally responsible nation” and a “nation of sanctuary committed to human rights and promoting peace”.

Emergency Question

The first item in a full meeting of the Senedd on 1 March was an emergency question on the impact of the Russian invasion on Welsh citizens and businesses. The First Minister stated that:

the people of Wales are appalled at the invasion of Ukraine and, as a nation of sanctuary, we will do everything we can to support the Ukrainian people. Wales is open to provide a welcome and safety to those fleeing war and persecution.

And that:

We have hundreds of people from Ukraine living in Wales with friends and family now on the front line, and there is work that we can do here to make sure that they know that, in Wales, they have the support of the whole of our nation as they face those deeply troubling days ahead.

He explained that the Welsh Government is:

  • ‘Providing £4m in financial and humanitarian aid;
  • Assessing what surplus medical equipment could be usefully provided;
  • Ready to welcome people who need and want to leave Ukraine at this time;
  • Urging the UK Government to make it easier for Ukrainians to come to the UK; and
  • Encouraging anyone who can to donate to the British Red Cross, UNICEF UK or to the UNHCR UK.’

The First Minister discussed the Welsh Government’s response with EU leaders in Brussels on Wednesday. He had previously stated that Welsh people must be prepared to make sacrifices to stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution, Mick Antoniw MS, who has close links with Ukraine offered his personal gratitude to:

all of the people of Wales for their messages of support, their solidarity and generosity over the past week, to myself and in particular to the Ukrainian community in Wales. […]
The war in Ukraine has turned into a war against the people of Ukraine, and all our thoughts are with those people who have taken up arms to defend democracy and to fight for freedom, including members of my own family.

Members of the Senedd applauded as they shared their personal experiences, support for Ukraine and for the International Criminal Court’s investigation in to war crimes. Some had attended a rally outside the Senedd on 28 February, along with members of the public.

All the Senedd’s political parties condemn the invasion

Every party leader in the Senedd has spoken out against the invasion.

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies MS called on the West to stand together with the nations of the world in protecting Ukraine, and for Russian troops to be “sent back beyond the international borders”.

Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price MS, wrote that “we cannot simply absolve ourselves of our responsibility. We cannot simply dismiss this as yet another ‘foreign land of which we know nothing’. What happens in Ukraine will reverberate around the world for years to come.” He called for a number of measures to be taken, including an “economic embargo” of Russia.

Jane Dodds MS, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, called it a “dark day for Europe and the world”.

How are international matters handled by the Senedd?

The Senedd routinely considers international matters across a broad range of issues, such as Brexit, climate change and refugees.

The committees responsible for potential matters raised by the conflict are:

What can the Welsh Government do?

Under Wales’ devolution settlement, key aspects of any response to the conflict are reserved to the UK Government and so the Welsh Government is limited in its ability to entirely carve its own path.

Nevertheless, there is still much it can and wants to do.

Even though international relations are reserved to the UK Government, the Welsh Government has historically been keen to take a stance on global matters, as captured in its 2020 international strategy. The strategy describes a “globally responsible nation” and a “nation of sanctuary committed to human rights and promoting peace”.

Immigration is also the responsibility of the UK Government but asylum seekers and refugees who come to Wales receive public services and support provided by the Welsh Government, local authorities and other organisations. In 2019, the Welsh Government declared that Wales would become the world’s first ‘Nation of Sanctuary’, a plan endorsed by the United Nations.

Welsh Ministers must comply with the UK’s international obligations and to ensure their implementation in devolved areas. This means that the Welsh Government is required to ensure that its actions remain compatible, including with human rights treaties and treaties that protect refugees. On 1 March, the First Minister’s statement referred to the UK’s “moral and legal” obligations under the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention. He has asked the Prime Minister to “urgently put in place simple, fast, safe and legal routes to sanctuary in the UK.”

The Welsh Government may be drawn in to other elements of the conflict in Ukraine, such as BBC reports of a ship carrying Russian cargo being diverted away from the port of Milford Haven, or the impacts of economic sanctions.

What happens next?

The Senedd is highly likely to consider future developments as the situation in Ukraine unfolds. A motion has been tabled for debate on 9 March by Darren Millar MS to condemn the invasion, to express solidarity with the people of Ukraine and to welcome the actions of the Welsh Government.

In the coming days and weeks, the Welsh Government will be aiming to put the plans announced this week into action, including preparing to welcome refugees to Wales. It launched similar responses to the recent situations in Afghanistan and Syria.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is without comparison. This is modern warfare on European soil that has reshaped the global order in a matter of days. For the UK and Wales, its effects are likely to be far reaching and to resonate much closer to home for an indeterminable period of time.

Article by Sara Moran, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament