Rail union boss slams UK support for Ukraine as an ‘obscenity’ and accuses Britain of aiding 'war crimes'

Rishi Sunak and Zelensky. Inset of Alex Gordon

RMT President Alex Gordon attacked ‘spending billions of pounds on arms to Ukraine’

Charlie Peters

By Charlie Peters

Published: 02/06/2023

- 17:33

Updated: 02/06/2023

- 17:35

RMT President Alex Gordon accuses Britain of being complicit in war crimes by supplying arms to Ukraine

A leading union boss has been criticised for describing Britain’s support for Ukraine as an "obscenity" during the cost of living crisis.

RMT President Alex Gordon told a Left-wing festival that "spending billions and billions of pounds on arms to Ukraine" was "an absolutely improper use of public money".

Gordon told the Arise Festival that the spending came "at a time when workers are struggling to pay the bills, when we can’t afford the food price rises and energy price rises, and when we hear the government supports an increase in interest rates to possible 5.5 per cent next month."

The union boss went on to allege that "there are war crimes being carried out in Ukraine with British arms," adding: "There are clearly use is [sic] being put to British weapons which they shouldn’t be put to."

\u200bRMT President Alex Gordon

RMT President Alex Gordon accused Ukraine of war crimes

Gordon urged the British Left to "as a movement say which side we stand on this question, we’ve got to stand against war, we’ve got to back up our comrades in the UCU, and I take my hat off to them, voting this week to support a motion against arms sales to Ukraine and the Stop the War Coalition".

The UCU last week backed a motion at a conference in Glasgow accusing President Volodymyr Zelensky of wanting the country to become an "armed, illiberal outpost of US imperialism".

The UCU General Secretary Jo Grady urgently put out a press release pleading with members not to leave the union after the motion was passed, adding that she did not personally support the motion.

Several Labour MPs and peers attended the virtual event – touted as a “festival of Left ideas” – where Gordon made his comments.

Zelensky touched down at the Prime Minister's Buckinghamshire retreat this morning

Britain has helped provide arms to Ukraine


Labour’s Baroness Christine Blower, who chaired the event, responded to Gordon’s speech by saying, ‘that’s great, thank you very much.’

Another peer at the event, Lord John Hendy KC, and four MPs – John McDonnell, Kim Johnson, Bell Ribiero Addy and Kate Osborne – failed to criticise Gordon’s claims that Britain’s support for Ukraine was an "obscenity" and made Britain complicit in "war crimes … with British arms".

The silence of the Labour figures attending the event suggests a break with the position of leader Sir Keir Starmer, who visited Kyiv in February, reaffirming Labour’s commitment to supporting the Ukrainian resistance with British supplies.

An RMT spokesperson said: "The RMT has repeatedly condemned Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine and called for the immediate withdrawal of Russia's military forces from the country."

Tory MP Brendan Clarke-Smith said: “Sadly it will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody that these union fat cats, bankrolled by membership subscriptions, are throwing around crackpot conspiracy theories once again.

"The fact that Labour MPs, many of whom would have gladly supported us leaving Nato, are there to support the event brings further shame on their party and shows that they can’t be trusted to put the interests of this country’s security ahead of despotic regimes such as Putin’s.”

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “These are not the views of the Labour Party.

"With Keir Starmer’s leadership there will never be any confusion about whose side Labour is on - Britain, Nato, freedom and democracy.”

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