Marles looks to more Australian support for wartorn Ukraine
Australia will continue sending military support to Ukraine to add to the delivery of armoured vehicles and howitzers but is yet to decide the additional ways to help the country fight the Russian invasion.
Defence Minister Richard Marles said Australia wanted to help empower Ukraine to resolve the conflict on its terms and was looking at ways to add to the delivery of Bushmasters and other armoured equipment over the past six months.
Australian Army Bushmasters.Credit:
But he fended off calls for an Australian ban on Russian tourists by saying the government wanted to sanction Russian leaders rather than their people.
“The Bushmasters are making a real difference. The howitzers are making a difference,” Marles said on Sunday.
“We will be providing support and we’ll have an ongoing conversation with Ukraine about how best we can do that.”
Ukrainian ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko called on the weekend for Australia to follow some European countries in banning Russian tourists, but the European Union is divided on the question and most countries have continued issuing visas.
Poland, Latvia, the Czech Republic and Estonia have restricted visas for Russian tourists in the hope of putting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Myroshnychenko also urged Australia to reopen its embassy in Kyiv, which it closed on February 13, and repeated his requests for more military support.
Marles told the ABC’s Insiders program the Australian sanctions against Russia were aimed at its government.
“We have a range of sanctions in place, and the focus of our sanctions is on the Russian government, those who are perpetrating what has happened in relation to Ukraine,” he said.
“It’s not focused on the Russian people themselves, so this is not something that we’re considering at the moment.”
On the Australian embassy, which is currently supported from Poland after the departure of staff from Ukraine in February, Marles said there were questions about logistics, support and security.
“This is something that will be under continued assessment,” he said.
Marles said there was “no holdup” to the delivery of military support given the Australian commitment was greater than some NATO member states.
“We’ve got a program of delivery of that which we’ve already committed and that program is on schedule. We have committed 60 Bushmasters, another 28 armoured vehicles, six lightweight Howitzers, unmanned aerial systems.
“We are one of the largest non-NATO military supporters of Ukraine.
“Our objective is to empower Ukraine itself to be able to be at the centre of however this is resolved. This needs to be resolved on their terms. That has to be the outcome given the unprovoked aggression that we saw from Russia at the outset of this.”
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