Brooks Newmark, the former MP for Braintree and Conservative Minister for Civil Society, has “worked hard to rebuild” his life after resigning from his post in 2014 amid a ‘sexting’ scandal. Now, however, the philanthropist and humanitarian has proven that redemption is indeed possible after a murky end to a career in politics – even if that wasn’t his true motivation.
Since Putin’s bloody war in Ukraine began, Mr Newmark has helped rescue over 7,500 Ukrainians from unimaginable conditions.
He has used his own money to fund buses moving in and out of Ukraine, taking people from the most severely bombarded cities to safety in central Europe.
Mr Newmark has spent hundreds of thousands raised from friends, family and his own pocket to make the project possible.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he explained how his work in Ukraine started.
He said: “I’m doing a doctorate at University, and I was doing field research in Rwanda when the war began.
“I spotted a Latvian friend of mine who has a bus company, and he was on the border in Poland. I sent him a message asking if I could join him and be a helping hand.
“I went out there, and during the two weeks I was there we were working on the border where there were refugees at the time, getting people from the border to cities like Berlin, Paris and Riga.”
Mr Newmark then posed the idea of getting buses into Ukraine. Some bus companies and drivers were nervous about the idea of travelling into war zones.
But the former minister managed to convince some to make the trips, eventually helping to get Ukrainian refugees out of the east of the country.
He continued: “For the next two weeks we were moving people from Lviv and Kyiv to the border with Poland.
“As the Russians were pushed further out, more people were using railways.
“We then moved our operation further east, to places like Vinnytsia and Zaporizhzhia – and later Dnipro and Kharkiv.”
Mr Newmark travelled on coaches across the country himself, hoping that a British voice would make refugees more trusting amid fears of fake rescue missions taking people to Russia instead.
The former Tory politician said Prime Minister Boris Johnson – and Britain as a whole – are viewed as ” the most amazing thing” by Ukrainians, who are grateful for the support that the UK has provided during the war.
The journeys Mr Newmark has undertaken were harrowing at times.
He spoke of his horror after visiting Bucha – a city in Ukraine’s Kyiv Oblast – the now-infamous setting of some of Russia’s most horrific war crimes.
Mass graves and “absolute destruction” are what greeted those who travelled to the areas close to the capital, Mr Newmark said.
He added that while the UK has done a lot to support Ukraine, he believes that more can still be done.
He said: “It must go further. We must do everything possible, and in fact, I support the Foreign Secretary Liz Truss when she says we should be giving them planes to fly.
“If that is what they need, we should give it to them.”
Mr Newmark is now housing two Ukrainian refugees – a mother and her daughter – and he also condemns the “foolish” approach the UK Government has taken with its asylum processes.
“The daughter and mother I am now housing applied at the time same time for asylum,” he said.
“The daughter got her visa in four days. For the mother, it took three and a half weeks.
“If there are families coming over, they should apply on one application. It is absolutely foolish to make families apply on separate applications.
“The criticism is correct. I gather that there are more people getting their visas. “
When asked what motivated Mr Newmark to take on such a monumental feat, he spoke of his previous work as well as his religion.
He has worked on humanitarian projects in the past – including in post-genocide Rwanda and war-torn Syria.
As a practising Jew, he also explained his sense of duty once he had heard of the Russian invasion.
He said: “As a child, I heard of relatives who had escaped or even died during the Holocaust.
“As a Jew growing up you hear these stories, and you are conscious of the fact people stuck their necks out on the line for you, and I felt now was my time to stand up and be counted.”
He denies that his work in Ukraine derives from a desire to redeem himself after his departure from politics in 2014.
Mr Newmark was forced to resign as Minister for Civil Society after two months in 2014 when it emerged that he had sent naked pictures of himself to an undercover reporter posing as a Tory activist.
He adds: “I have been involved in things like my work in Ukraine for 15 plus years. This is something I have always done. That is all I’m doing.
“I have worked hard to rebuild my life, and this war is just a way for me to continue the work that I have done on humanitarian issues.”