Australia is looking for new ways to support Ukraine in the wake of the Russian invasion, according to the acting prime minister.
Richard Marles said Australia had so far promised almost $300 million worth of assistance to Ukraine, although not all had yet been handed over.
As Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko called for more Bushmaster vehicles to be delivered to the eastern European nation, Mr Marles agreed assistance was necessary.
“We’re also looking at additional ways in which we can support Ukraine,” he told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.
“While Ukraine is a long way from Australia, we really do see that the principles which are at stake in the conflict – which is essentially that the global rules-based order that Australia stands for and helped build and protect – needs to be protected everywhere.”
As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese weighs an invitation to visit the war-torn country, Mr Myroshnychenko said Australia had been one of the country’s key allies against Russian aggression.
“Australia is punching above its weight,” he told Sky News on Tuesday.
“There is a tradition of Australia standing up to the bullying behaviour, and Prime Minister Albanese understands it really well.
“(The new government) haven’t yet been able to announce any new assistance package but I’m sure it’s in the making, I’m sure it’s coming.”
Australia has committed to providing 40 Bushmasters to Ukraine, with 20 of those having already arrived.
Mr Myroshnychenko said the cost of the rebuild in Ukraine from the war would be at least $1 trillion and it would take “a generation or two” to fully recover.
While the prime minister is yet to indicate whether he will visit Kyiv, Mr Myroshnychenko said other world leaders have made the trip, despite the danger.
“When I say nobody’s safe in Ukraine, it’s just the reality of the war – because it’s war,” he said.
“(UK Prime Minister) Boris Johnson visited Ukraine last week. We had the visit of the Italian, German and French leaders … visitors come on a regular basis.”
Should Mr Albanese go to Ukraine, it would be the first time an Australian prime minister has done so.
“Australia is very well regarded in Ukraine … everybody is very positively surprised by how Australia has been able to stand out in this war because previously, in the past, we are so far away,” Mr Myroshnychenko said.
“My president has assured me Prime Minister Albanese is very welcome, he’d be delighted to see him.”
Mr Myroshnychenko also expressed hope Australia’s ambassador to Ukraine, Bruce Edwards, would be able to return to the country.
Australian embassy staff have been working out of Poland since the crisis began.
In the latest fighting, Russian missiles struck a centre in the city of Kremenchuk, with at least 16 people killed.
The invasion is set to be the main topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit in Spain, where Australia is in attendance.
Mr Albanese says the meeting will be crucial in dealing with the war.
“This brutal invasion is having real consequences for the people of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine are inspiring the world with struggling to defend their national sovereignty, struggling against this brutal invasion,” he said.
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