Prime Minister Scott Morrison has flatly rejected the suggestion that Australian troops will put boots on the ground in Ukraine as the standoff with Russia grows more tense by the hour.
Australia will instead provide what the Prime Minister described only as “practical things” to assist allies should Moscow send tanks and troops into its smaller neighbour’s territory.
US President Joe Biden is adamant Russia’s Vladimir Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine and will do so within days.
Mr Morrison agrees with the US intelligence appraisals, rating an invasion as “regrettably inevitable” so long as Russia continues to station almost 200,000 front-line troops in the border region.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin has now assumed personal control of the arrayed forces, further heightening fears the long-anticipated offensive in eastern Ukraine is imminent.
“There is no pretence for an invasion into Ukraine. There is no justification for it. There is no provocation of it,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Darwin on Saturday.
Mr Morrison said Australia would stand by its like-minded allies and provide “support that is necessary”.
“Australia has not been asked or nor would we be providing support through troops or anything of that nature,” he said.
“We work with our allies and partners in many other ways, and we will seek to do that with the practical things that we can do to assist those efforts.
“We have had such discussions with the UK Prime Minister and others about how we proceed along that basis.”
Russia has released footage it claims shows a withdrawal of its troops from the border but the US believes that, rather than shrinking forces, there has actually been a ramp-up to as many as 190,000 troops – almost double the forces in the border region at the end of January.
Late on Friday, Ukraine’s military intelligence said Russian special forces had planted explosives at social infrastructure facilities in Donetsk, and urged residents to stay at home.
Mr Morrison described Russia’s threats against Ukraine as uninvited, unprovoked and unacceptable.
“They cannot use the threat of war and invasion as a way of trying to leverage and negotiate other changes that they may be seeking,” he said.
“This is not how free nations, democratic nations, nations in favour of peace, should behave. We have seen this before and we cannot allow it to stand.”
“(We) will always be proud to stand with others like the United States and Japan and so many others around the world, the friends in Europe and United Kingdom who have been prepared to call this out.”
Trade Minister Dan Tehan earlier this week said Australia would enact strong economic sanctions against Russia should it invade.
Last weekend, the federal government temporarily suspended its operations at the Australian Embassy in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv and evacuated diplomatic staff.