Nicola Sturgeon unveils more help for Ukraine as Russia steps up attack

NICOLA Sturgeon has announced Scotland will send half a million items of “life saving” medical supplies to Ukraine to help those “fighting a battle for democracy and freedom” against the Russian invasion.

The assistance – worth £2.9 million – is in addition to £4 million of humanitarian aid to help with basic items such as water and sanitation announced by the First Minister on Monday and will include hypodermic needles and oxygen masks.

An initial donation will be flown from Stansted Airport in Essex to Poland tomorrow (Thursday) for onward transport to Ukraine and includes wound dressings and bandages. These supplies are urgently needed by the Ukrainian Government.

The medical aid is in addition to £4 million of humanitarian assistance for Ukraine announced by the Scottish Government on Monday, which will help provide basic support such as shelter, water and sanitation.

Items will also include anaesthetic machines, syringe pumps and bandage, in accordance with a list of urgently needed equipment provided by the Ukrainian consulate in Edinburgh, while further work is under way to identify other supplies that will be needed.

Seven days into the war, some 874,000 people have fled Ukraine and the UN refugee agency warned the number could cross the one million mark soon. The overall death toll was not clear, but Ukraine’s State Emergency Service said more than 2,000 civilians have died.  The claim has not been verified, according to the news agency AP.

Countless others have taken shelter underground as Russia continues its bombardment.

Ms Sturgeon visited the NHS equipment storage facility in Motherwell to see the supplies being loaded. 

She said: “Scotland stands in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and we are ready to provide whatever support we can in their hour of need.

“The Ukrainian Government has requested critical medical assistance and I am proud of our NHS and all those who have worked tirelessly in recent days to make this initial consignment possible. We will deliver the rest of the supplies as quickly as we can.

“Scotland has strong links with Ukraine – Edinburgh is twinned with Kyiv and many Ukrainians have chosen our country as their home – and we will continue to provide practical help as it faces Russia’s unprovoked and illegal aggression.”

She said the shipment will be an “initial consignment” of items requested by the Ukrainian Government from NHS Scotland’s reserve stockpile, and she pledged to continue providing the “maximum we possibly can” for the duration of the conflict.

Warning the war is “likely to become grimmer and more deadly in the weeks and months to come”, Ms Sturgeon also issued a plea to Boris Johnson to make it easier for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict to come to the UK.

Describing the UK Government’s reluctance to waive visa requirements as shameful, Ms Sturgeon said: “The position of the UK Government has moved in the right direction in the last couple of days, but it hasn’t gone nearly far enough.

“I would appeal to the Prime Minister to stop moving forward incrementally, stop having to be dragged into a better position.

“Follow the example of the European Union who’s opened its doors and said people from Ukraine will get entry and the right to stay for three years, follow the example of Ireland as they drop visa requirements, open the doors of the UK to people fleeing this horror in Ukraine and sort the paperwork later.

“That’s the humanitarian thing to do, it’s what we need to do to give life to the words of support that everybody is articulating right now. But it’s also the practical and necessary thing to do.

“I don’t think any of us has properly grasped the magnitude of the population displacement that is going to come from this war.”

Speaking about the supply of equipment from NHS National Services Scotland at the Eurocentral industrial estate being flown to Ukraine, Ms Sturgeon said it will not leave Scotland’s health service short of equipment.

She said: “This is part of Scotland’s response, it is one way – relatively small in the context of the overall magnitude of this – that Scotland can help people in Ukraine right now who are fighting so bravely for the freedom and independence of their own country, but actually fighting a battle for democracy and freedom on behalf of all of us.

“We’ve all got a duty to do everything we can to support them and make sure they prevail.”

Ms Sturgeon also revealed her Cabinet had discussions on Monday about co-ordinating donations, money and offers of help from people across Scotland and urged people to offer what they can to support Ukrainians affected by Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

She added: “From the president to men and women in the street, their courage and bravery is awe-inspiring.

“They are fighting a battle for freedom and the independence of their country, but they are fighting a battle right now on behalf of all of us.

“This is a moment in history where it’s democracy versus autocracy, its freedom versus oppression, it’s the Putin doctrine of ‘might is right ‘versus the rule of international law.

“They’re fighting that battle right now for all of us, for freedom, for democracy, for international law.

“It matters to all of us that they prevail and therefore we have got to not just send them our solidarity in words, we’ve got to do everything we practically can to help them in this battle.”

NHS National Services Scotland Chief Executive Mary Morgan said: “We are all very saddened by what is happening in Ukraine and our thoughts are with all those affected.

“Colleagues across NHS National Services Scotland, quickly mobilised to compile this shipment of necessary medical equipment which will go towards supporting the people of Ukraine, and we as an organisation will do whatever we can to support this period of uncertainty.

“Time is of the essence in this these situations, and thanks goes to the NHS teams for a fantastic effort in the coordination of this effort to support the humanitarian effort of Ukraine.”

Russia has renewed its assault on Ukraine’s second-largest city in a pounding that lit up the skyline with balls of fire over populated areas, even as both sides said they are ready to resume talks aimed at stopping the new devastating war in Europe.

The escalation of attacks on crowded cities followed an initial round of talks between outgunned Ukraine and nuclear power Russia on Monday that resulted in only a promise to meet again. It was not clear when new talks might take place – or what they would yield. Ukraine’s leader earlier said Russia must stop bombing before another meeting.

Another attack came on Wednesday on Kharkiv, a city with a population of about 1.5 million, and a reported strike on a hospital in the country’s north. A 40-mile convoy of hundreds of Russian tanks and other vehicles advanced slowly on the capital of Kyiv, while Russian forces pressed their assault on the strategic southern city of Kherson.

Mr Putin’s goals are not clear, but the West has warned he may be seeking to topple the government and install a Kremlin-friendly regime.

Mr Zelensky has decried Russia’s attacks on civilian targets as a blatant terror campaign, while US President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that if the Russian leader didn’t “pay a price” for the invasion, the aggression wouldn’t stop with one country.

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