Councillors in Reading have pledged to act to do all they can to support people fleeing the war in Ukraine.

All councillors agreed that the invasion of Ukraine had precipitated a humanitarian crisis.

Members engaged in heavy condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin for initiating the invasion, calling his actions monstrous and evil.

Councillor Simon Robinson (Conservative, Peppard) said: “This despicable decision to invade by the Russian leadership under Putin was simply evil incarnate.”

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Meanwhile, Cllr Josh Williams (Green, Park) said: “I find this quite emotional.

“You tell your kids there’s no such thing as monsters, then you turn on the news.”

In her speech Cllr Jeannette Skeats (Conservative, Thames) condemned atrocities being committed by Russian troops, saying their behaviour is similar to that of soldiers portrayed in the Massacre of the Innocents tapestry in The Vatican.

She said: “This is a slaughter of the innocents, we can’t get away from it.

“It’s wicked, it’s evil. We can’t just mention Putin in this, there’s Russian soldiers that are fighting who are carrying out rapes, murders, shooting people who are queuing up for bread, they are innocents.

“I feel guilty that we are just watching.”

Reading Chronicle: Cllr Jeanette Skeats (Conservative, Thames). Credit: Reading East ConservativesCllr Jeanette Skeats (Conservative, Thames). Credit: Reading East Conservatives

Both Conservative councillors were careful to lay blame for war squarely at the feet of Putin and those following his orders.

The statements were made as council leader Jason Brock introduced a motion defining the council’s response to the crisis.

Action in the motion includes immediately earmarking £25,000 to fund additional council services and support volunteer and community organisations for those fleeing conflict, and begins preparations to support 10 families through the Local Sponsorship Scheme, which allows people to receive Ukrainian refugees into their homes.

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Cllr Brock (Labour, Southcote), introducing it at a full council meeting yesterday (Tuesday, March 22) said: “This is a time when we need to step up.

“Symbolism can have its place, and gestures can in fact demonstrate a great deal, but only if it is an indicator of practical commitment, change and action, that we seek to realise.”

Reading Chronicle: Councillor Jason Brock, the leader of Reading Borough CouncilCouncillor Jason Brock, the leader of Reading Borough Council

The motion was seconded by cllr Alice Mpofu-Coles, who herself fled from Zimbabwe to the UK in 2002, settling in Reading.

Cllr Mpofu-Coles  (Labour, Whitley) said: “This is now my home. I’ve lived here longer than I lived in the town where I was born.

“The hospitality of people going beyond politics is important. if you take time to listen to the stories of refugees, learn and understand. They are human beings.

“It is about humanising each other and kindness goes a long way.”

Cllr Mpofu-Coles has done her part by registering to take Ukranian refugees into her home.

Reading Chronicle: Councillor Alice Mpofu-Coles (Labour, Whitley)Councillor Alice Mpofu-Coles (Labour, Whitley)

Councillors also expressed solidarity with the Ukrainian people and expressed their desire to help.

Cllr Williams said: “We don’t just see the brutality of a monster, we also see the incredible bravery of the people of the Ukraine in the face of evil.

“Reading is united. We all stand as one, and say to the people of Ukraine: we are with you.”

Addressing Ukrainian refugees, Cllr Meri O’Connell (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst) simply said: “Just let us know what you need.”

The motion defining the council’s response to the crisis was approved unanimously.

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Other agreed actions in the motion include the council continuing to work with the Reading Ukrainian Community Centre to support refugees, reaffirming its commitment as a ‘City of Sanctuary’ and seeking ‘Council of Sanctuary’ status.

Amendments by cllr Jane Stanford-Beale (Conservative, Peppard) requests that the council work with trauma-informed specialists to provide training to staff and volunteers to support refugees suffering from PTSD, work with schools to educate and safeguard child refugees, and thank the town’s  Polish and Eastern European communities for supporting their Ukranian neighbours.

Cllr Rachel Eden (Labour, Whitley) the town mayor, ended the discussion by saying Slava Ukraini!” – Glory to Ukraine!