Russia invaded Ukraine on 24 February 2022. In 2014, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine resulted in the annexation of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine and Belarus are the historic lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which used to be the biggest country in Europe stretching from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. The Grand Duchy was known to accommodate the different religious beliefs peacefully at the time and tolerance.
It is no wonder why Lithuania is outspoken on the matters of Belarus and Ukraine as the common history runs deeper than the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
Lithuania is a member of the EU and NATO. These were the strategic goals that were achieved in 2004.
Ukraine and NATO membership
NATO stands for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is the Article 5 of the Treaty, which acts as the major incentive for the countries to join. Article 5:
“The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall immediately be reported to the Security Council. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.”
Article 5 is supplemented by Article 6, which states:
“For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the Parties is deemed to include an armed attack:
- on the territory of any of the Parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Departments of France 2, on the territory of Turkey or on the Islands under the jurisdiction of any of the Parties in the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer;
- on the forces, vessels, or aircraft of any of the Parties, when in or over these territories or any other area in Europe in which occupation forces of any of the Parties were stationed on the date when the Treaty entered into force or the Mediterranean Sea or the North Atlantic area north of the Tropic of Cancer.”
Article 5 of NATO is not just a trendy declaration under the rules of international law. The solemn expectation is that if a member state is attacked or under aggression, the rest of the member states will get involved.
In light of the recent events it appears inconceivable that the Russian Federation was seriously considered for NATO membership. It was up to the smaller member states of NATO who had first hand experience with Russia inside out to inform its Western allies about its true intentions and block any possible membership considerations.
Similarly, Ukraine started NATO membership negotiations in 1992 and applied to become a member in 2008. However, Ukraine’s NATO membership commitments were diffused by its leadership. Currently, Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
However, in 2021 NATO leaders confirmed their 2008 decision that: “Ukraine would become a member of the Alliance with the Membership Action Plan (MAP) as an integral part of the process and Ukraine’s right to determine its future and foreign policy, of course without outside interference”.
Ukraine and EU membership
The EU is not a military organisation. It does not have its own army (which may change in the future as the debate is there). At the moment a number of EU countries rely on NATO membership for its military needs.
The UK just exited the EU, but remains a member of NATO and continues to be outspoken in relation to the military operations and unified defence.
The EU is founded on the idea that certain highly competitive economic resources can be shared peacefully between the rival nations, and as a result this eliminates the reason for war to take place.
Recent Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompted the president of Ukraine to sign an EU membership application on 28 February 2022.
Eight EU member states support Ukraine’s application for EU membership: the Republic of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, the Republic of Estonia, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, the Republic of Poland, the Slovak Republic and the Republic of Slovenia.
Ukraine’s membership application was accepted and The European Parliament has voted to advance Ukraine’s membership with 637 voted for, with 13 voted against, and 26 abstained.
The EU pledged its support for Ukraine, even though the EU treaties do not stipulate a fast-track membership procedure. This is an interesting political test for Europe and its rule of law.
Sanctions against Russia
There are a number of international organisations that may adopt sanctions against Russia in light of its invasion of Ukraine.
UN – United Nations
It is the purpose of the UN to ensure peace in the world. Its predecessor the League of Nations famously failed in 1946 as the result of WWII, which it was incapable of preventing.
In February 2022, Russia took on the Presidency of the UN Security Council for one month, which is the primary body tasked with adopting UN sanctions. Incidentally, Russia is one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that it would vote in favour or impose any sanctions against itself.
However, the UN General Assembly’s vote denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is seen as an important victory, albeit symbolic.
OSCE – Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe
OSCE closely monitors the situation in the UK. The Russian Federation is one of the 57 participating states. Currently, Poland is the Chairman of the OSCE. All 57 participating countries are represented in the OSCE Permanent Council.
EU – European Union
The first package includes:
- targeted restrictive measures
- restrictions on economic relations with the non-government controlled areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts
- financial restrictions
The second package includes:
- individual sanctions against Vladimir Putin, Sergey Lavrov and the members of the Russian State Duma, among others
- economic sanctions
The third package includes:
- provisions of equipment and supplies to the Ukrainian armed forces through the European Peace Facility
- a ban on overflight of EU airspace and on access to EU airports by Russian carriers of all kinds
- a ban on the transactions with the Russian Central Bank
- a SWIFT ban for seven Russian banks
- the suspension of broadcasting in the EU of state-owned media Russia Today and Sputnik
- individual and economic sanctions against Belarus
The European Council (the intergovernmental body within the EU structure led by the heads of member states) identified specific entities and individuals, which were added nearly on the daily basis to the original 2014 sanctions list:
- 22 more individuals on 2 March 2022;
- 26 additional individuals and one entity on 28 February 2022;
- includes persons who facilitated Russia’s military aggression on 25 February 2022;
- includes persons supporting and benefitting from the Government of the Russian Federation as well as persons and entities providing a substantial source of revenue to it, and natural or legal persons associated with listed persons or entities on 25 February 2022;
- 22 persons and four entities on 23 February 2022;
- 336 members of the State Duma added to the list of persons, entities and bodies s due to their vote in favour of a resolution to ask President Vladimir Putin to recognise the separatist-claimed parts of eastern Ukraine as independent states on 23 February 2022;
- five individuals should be added on 21 February 2022.
This sanctions package is believed to be one of the most comprehensive adopted by a country, regional or global international organisation.
Individual countries who are not members of the EU adopted their own sanction packages to mimic the ones adopted by the European Council in Brussels (one of the EU decision-making bodies).
The US Treasury has also amended its original sanctions with additional sanctions against legal entities and individuals. The discussions taking place in relation to the oil and gas embargo against Russia to be taken up by all the Western Allies.
The UK has recognised its need to catch up with including specific individuals in its sanctions lists. Therefore, it has now adopted far reaching measures to do so. Here you may access the summary provided by the Parliament.
Switzerland adopted its own sanctions against Russia. Swiss sanctions include the ban of certain Russian exports, restrictions on financial activities and cutting off Russian banks from SWIFT.
It is impossible to comprehend the suffering of people dying in an unnecessary military conflict. The families torn apart, children either orphaned or left behind by parents who took upon their rifles and joined forces to protect their homeland.
It is suggested that at least 1.5 M of the 43 M population fled the conflict. The reports indicate that civilians are being deliberately targeted contrary to the international conventions that protect civilians during war.
It is further argued that deliberate shelling on civilians is there to undermine morale and bring fear as well as to provoke a humanitarian crisis, which deepens the country’s scars and suffering even further.
UK’s Response: Ukrainian Families and UK Visa Sponsorship
The UK’s response towards uniting families in the UK affected by the armed conflict is different compared to 2014 Russia’s invasion of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk.
So far, the UK has adopted two UK visa schemes. One scheme is specifically intended to reunite UK families with their family members in Ukraine. The second scheme allows organisations to sponsor Ukrainian nationals who do not have family members in the UK.
Ukrainian Family Scheme
The Ukrainian Family Scheme was extended not only to accommodate the immediate family members, but the extended family members as well. Perhaps, the greatest drawback is that individuals wanting to apply for this scheme need to apply from overseas and wait for their application to be processed before they are allowed to enter the UK. At the moment, no information is available about the guide processing times.
The guidance for applying from the UK is yet to be published. However, there is a 24/7 telephone line for concerned parties available.
In the meantime you can call the free 24/7 helpline on +44 808 164 8810 (0808 164 8810 from within the UK) for help with any questions about the scheme.
Under the Ukrainian Family Scheme, the UK visa is issued for 3 years and it is issued free of charge.
EU Settlement Family Permit may also be considered as a suitable alternative where Ukrainian family members are related to EU nationals. However, the processing time is 6 months.
Local Sponsorship Scheme for Ukraine
The government announced a new sponsorship scheme for Ukrainians who have no family ties to the UK.
At the moment the detailed guidance is not available. However, the government pledged that the scheme would operate as follows:
The scheme will allow sponsors, such as communities, private sponsors or local authorities, to bring those forced to flee Ukraine to the UK.
There will be no limit on this scheme and we will welcome as many Ukrainians as wish to come and have matched sponsors.
Those who come under this scheme will also be granted leave for an initial period of 12 months and able to work and access public services.
The government will work closely with international partners and neighbouring countries on the scheme to ensure that displaced Ukrainians are supported to apply.
We will also make sure that those who want to sponsor an individual or family can volunteer and be matched quickly with Ukrainians in need, working closely with the devolved administrations and local authorities across the country.
Further details on the scheme for people will be published soon, including information on how people and organisations in the UK can apply to be sponsors.
Perhaps, the most unsettling information currently coming through is that the humanitarian corridors that help civilians to flee the armed conflict as announced by Russia, at the moment, only lead to Russia and Belarus.
Other Practical Considerations
In the wake of international humanitarian crisis other practical considerations become important, such as:
- Is it safe to keep my personal and business capital in case of a possible invasion?
- Will I be able to access my personal and business assets if I lose control of my business in the wake of international armed military conflict?
- Do I need to flee? Now?
- What practical arrangements do I need to make in order to protect my family, my business and my employees as the international armed conflict escalates?
- What can I do now before myself, my family and my business gets caught up in the international armed conflict?
Should you require any assistance with your UK visa applications or guidance and practical solutions on how to best protect your family’s personal and business assets in the wake of international armed conflict, book a consultation with me.
Saule Voluckyte, M.A.E.S, LL.B, FAIA
I have been working exclusively with UHNWI in Mayfair, London since January 2008. I built specialist knowledge and expertise required to serve ultra high net worth individuals investing, operating and relocating to the UK or Switzerland.
Within the industry, I am the single adviser who is able to traverse the different areas of expertise and bring a comprehensive approach across: global structuring, UK immigration, international taxation and FOREX to develop their global wealth strategy, while they build, grow and expand their wealth worldwide.
Previous experience as one of the senior advisors for the government, made me a go-to person when delicate and uncomfortable scenarios involving heads of state need to be handled with care and preserve privacy.