Anna McMorrin

March 17, 2023

The Times


The last few days are ones I will never forget. One year on from Putin’s illegal invasion, I travelled to Ukraine and spent a week helping to deliver aid to a nation torn apart by war. In the outskirts of Irpin, northwest of Kyiv, I saw apartment blocks, supermarkets and infrastructure obliterated by missile strikes; streets littered with burnt-out cars riddled with bullet holes; and clothes strewn everywhere, left by families racing against time to flee the approaching invaders. It was on the northern border with Belarus, in Chernihiv, that I saw the full horrors of the Russians’ illegal aggression.

This town was surrounded and cut off from the outside world for 30 days. Anyone who tried to escape, or raised questions of the horrors surrounding them, was shot or imprisoned in the basement of the local school. Those left alive were given very little food or water; the bodies of those murdered were thrown back into the basement to decompose as a lesson to others.

Schools were deliberately targeted and destroyed by Russian jets in the first few days of the war. All that remain of them are shards of glass, broken plaster, an upturned desk, a child’s drawing and a discarded shoe. The community lives on despite the devastation, trauma etched on people’s faces.

I heard stories of torture, sexual violence, rape and execution, not to mention deportations, child abductions by the thousands and large-scale attacks on civilian infrastructure. Let’s call these what they are: crimes against humanity, reminiscent of those during the Second World War. The evidence is right before us.

Families who had lived through the horrors told me that no justice would ever make up for what they had lost, but those responsible must pay for their crimes.

Meeting Ukrainian MPs and officials, we spoke about the support Ukraine needs against this barbaric invasion: tighter sanctions against Russia, more weapons and greater support with intelligence.

We have a responsibility to help Ukraine to secure victory, support rebuilding efforts and ensure they have the aid they need. We share the common values of respecting human rights and defending freedom and democracy. It’s our duty to make sure Putin does not succeed. But one message was loud and clear: Putin and his forces must be held to account and brought to justice.

Working closely with the international community, the UK government must take the lead in creating a special tribunal to investigate the crime of aggression, modelled on the tribunal set up to prosecute Nazi war crimes in Nuremberg. Labour called for this in March last year. The work must start now.

As I travelled through the night back to safety, crossing the border into Poland, I felt an extreme sadness to leave this beautiful country whose people showed such warmth and kindness, but who are being persecuted, tortured and killed.

The Ukrainian people deserve justice. The UK must play its part to ensure that justice is delivered.


Anna McMorrin is the shadow victims minister