Don’t be ‘Putin’s friend’, Tobias Ellwood warns rail strikers

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Rail strikers are 'Putin's friend', says Tobias Ellwood - Martin Pope /Getty Images Europe
Rail strikers are 'Putin's friend', says Tobias Ellwood - Martin Pope /Getty Images Europe

Rail union workers striking this week are "Putin's friends", Tobias Ellwood has claimed.

The senior Tory MP said that the disruption caused by this week's industrial action, the biggest on Britain's rail network for 30 years, was distracting the Government from the war in Ukraine, a fact the Russian president would be "enjoying".

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Ellwood said: "We face huge economic headwinds yet here we are causing such huge self-harm as the country is brought to a halt.

"I think Russia must be enjoying this self-inflicted distraction, pleased to see that the one government in Europe that is actually standing up to Putin is completely distracted in this way.

"I do hope the unions now call off future planned strikes ... this isn’t just disrupting commuters, including key workers, but students as well and indeed the hospitality sector."

He added: "It’s also Armed Forces weekend this Saturday and that’s where we say thank you to those who serve and have served.

"I say to the unions ‘please don’t be Putin’s friend - return to the talks today so we can get the country moving again’."

Rail strikers are 'Putin's friend', says Tobias Ellwood - Christopher Pledger /Christopher Pledger
Rail strikers are 'Putin's friend', says Tobias Ellwood - Christopher Pledger /Christopher Pledger

About 40,000 members of the RMT Union staged a walkout on Tuesday, with further strikes planned for Thursday and Sunday, as workers have become embroiled in a bitter dispute over pay and job cuts.

The Government has refused to sanction significant pay rises, with Boris Johnson warning the country that they must prepare for further disruption and need to "stay the course" if they are to break the strike.

Commuters continued to face travel misery on Wednesday, with just 60 per cent of rail services running nationwide, despite no formal industrial action taking place.

Anthony Smith, the Chief Executive of Transport Focus, told the BBC: "Today is going to be quite a messy day still."

"Do not assume this is a normal day. If you are going to travel by train, check before you leave the house, check on the way to the station and for goodness sake, take a bottle of water with you."

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