PM commits to investigate Russian tanker access in Shetland

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today condemned the Russian assault on Ukraine as a challenge to the “rules-based international order” and voiced concern about the message sent by ongoing Russian access to the UK economy. Mr Carmichael highlighted the presence of Russian-owned oil tankers at the Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland and the wider risk of allowing economic links to Russia to limit action against Putin’s regime.

Following an intervention during the Prime Minister’s statement on further sanctions this evening, Mr Carmichael secured a commitment from the PM to look into Russian oil tanker access to North Sea terminals:

“My constituents are asking me why they should be loading oil onto a Russian tanker while Russian troops are marching into Ukraine. I cannot think of a good answer to tell them. Can the Prime Minister tell me, will anything that he has announced today ensure that this will not happen again in the future?”

The Prime Minister responded:

“I will of course immediately investigate what is happening with the Sovcomflot tanker but the result of the measures passed by the House the other day is that we can target any company, any entity that has a relation with the Russian state.”

Speaking in the House earlier in the day, Mr Carmichael said:

“We may be shocked by what we have seen happen today, but we should not be in any way surprised. It has been obvious for weeks and months—some might even say years—that this day was always going to come.

“With Putin, and others like him, it is always important to see that we have sent the right signals. What signals have we sent since 2014? We allowed Germany to go ahead and negotiate the construction of Nord Stream 2, a project that was designed specifically to take Ukraine out of the equation and allow a continued supply of gas from Russia to Europe.

“I find myself in a difficult contest between what my head and my heart tell me. My head tells me that we have seen all this before. My head tells me that despots using foreign policy to distract attention from problems at home is nothing new and only ends in one way. My head tells me that the proposition that national boundaries should be defined on ethnic or linguistic grounds is a dangerous road for any country to be going down. My head tells me that appeasement never works. But at the same time my heart says that this risks taking us to a place where we have armed conflict on continental Europe. We need to confront that very real possibility.

“I said that the Government’s response has been inadequate. That has been illustrated to me today by calls and emails I have received from constituents who tell me that at Sullom Voe oil terminal in Shetland, the oil tanker NS Challenger—which is owned and operated by Sovcomflot, a company wholly owned by the Russian Government—is, as we speak, loading oil for export out of Shetland.

“What does that tell us? It tells us that everything that the Government have said this week has been heard in Russia as ‘business as usual’. ‘Why on earth’, my constituents ask me, ‘are we currently exporting as strategically important a commodity as oil out of Shetland in Russian-owned and operated tankers?’

“I do not know what answer I can give them other than that we have continued to send the wrong signals. We need to return to this in the days and weeks to come, but for now the challenge that we have is to the post-war rules-based international order. If we acquiesce in the face of that challenge, frankly, we do not end anywhere that is a good place.”

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