Rare applause in the Commons as parliament puts on united front over Ukraine

The House of Commons put on a united front this afternoon with a rare standing ovation for the Ukrainian ambassador to the UK.

MPs broke parliamentary convention to stand up and applaud Vadim Prtstaiko, who was watching Prime Minister’s Questions in the gallery. 

Clapping in the Commons is against the code of conduct, but indicative of the strength of feeling across the House, the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, made a rare exception. 

Sir Lindsay said: “We generally do not tolerate applause in the chamber, but on this occasion the House quite rightly will want to demonstrate our respect and support for your country”.

The spirit of feeling that began PMQs was maintained throughout Keir Starmer’s line of questioning, who said the country would continue to “stand united in our support for the Ukrainian people.

On sanctions, Labour’s leader stated he “supported the measures so far”, but challenged Johnson on the economic crime bill, which is due to be voted through on Monday.

Despite confirming Labour would support the government on the bill, Starmer asked the prime minister why the new legislature wouldn’t tackle existing Russian property owners until 18 months after the bill passes.

The prime minister responded by pointing out that the free fall of the Russian economy was proof the “speed of results” global sanctions were having on the Russian economy.

One case of considerable public interest is Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who has close links to the Kremlin and is a person of interest to the home office. Starmer asked “why on earth” Abramovich hasn’t yet been sanctioned by the UK government.

The prime minister said it wasn’t appropriate for him to “comment on individual cases”, arguing the impact of sanctioning 275 individuals “is already being felt” in Russia.

According to the Telegraph, the Chelsea owner is hastily seeking to sell the club amid continuing uncertainty as to the future of his UK assets.

In this afternoon’s lobby briefing, Downing Street confirmed the foreign office is expected to publish a full list of Russian organisations and individuals sanctioned by the UK in due course.

Asked what the purpose was of publishing the list, the prime minister’s spokesperson stated, “it is in the interest of transparency”. 

Number 10 added that “people should think very carefully about how they engage with any organisations that may be assisting Putin”.

Johnson told the Commons he spoke to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier this morning, affirming the UK was “determined to do everything we can to help Ukrainians fleeing the theatre of conflict.

President Zelenskyy tweeted earlier this morning: “We are grateful for [UK] continued significant assistance in combating aggression.”

Over 2,000 civilians in Ukraine have been killed since Russia’s launched its full-scale invasion last Thursday morning.

This figure was released in a statement by Ukraine’s emergency service this afternoon.

Photo credit: ©UK Parliament / Jessica Taylor