Here’s How Australia Is Responding To Russia’s Invasion Of Ukraine
“Australia has not been asked or nor would we be providing support through troops or anything of that nature."
Russian President Vladimir Putin officially recognised two separatist regions of eastern Ukraine as independent states on Monday, fuelling fears that the country could invade its neighbour at any given moment.
The move to recognise the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk — collectively known as Donbas — was immediately labelled a “breach of international law” by the US, UK and EU, and many have signalled a war between Russia and Ukraine is imminent at this point.
Why Does Russia Want Ukraine?
The situation in Ukraine and the reason why Russia wants to invade is extremely complex and requires the context of everything that has happened since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — and the history of Russia before that.
There’s a lot of context needed to adequately explain why Russia wants Ukraine so badly, and what caused all of this conflict — and there are countless explainers and documentaries that deep dive into every aspect of this. But for the sake of this article — and its brevity — we’re going to focus on how Australia is responding to the current crisis, and the imminent threat of war in Eastern Europe.
What Does The Donbas Being “Independent” Actually Mean?
Putin’s declaration of independence of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions basically confirms what Ukraine and most of the rest of the world has long assumed. Previously, Russia has denied supporting the separatists in these regions, but by officially acknowledging them as independent states (it’s worth noting the rest of the world does not acknowledge this), Russia could send troops and weapons to the regions.
On Tuesday, Putin ordered the Russian defence ministry to send “peacekeepers” to the regions. Reuters reports that “about five tanks were seen in a column on the edge of Donetsk and two more in another part of town, a Reuters reporter said. No insignia were visible on the vehicles.”
The “peacekeeping” has already been slammed by the UN — and much of the rest of the world — as “nonsense” and a clear pretext for war in Ukraine.
An Invasion Is “Inevitable”, But Australia Won’t Be Sending Troops
In a press conference on Saturday — before Putin’s declaration of independence and subsequent “peacekeeping” operations — Scott Morrison asserted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is “regrettably inevitable.”
His comments followed a similar statement from US President Joe Biden, who stated his belief that Russia has already made the decision to invade Ukraine and that the question is no longer “if”, but “when.”
“The pretence has been sought for an invasion,” said Morrison in a press conference on Saturday. “There is no pretence for an invasion into Ukraine. There is no justification for it. There is no provocation of it.”
However, when asked how Australia will support Ukraine in the face of what could develop into a war in Eastern Europe, Morrison confirmed we will not be sending troops to Ukraine.
“Australia has not been asked or nor would we be providing support through troops or anything of that nature,” said Morrison.
Morrison noted that Australia will provide “practical” assistance, but offered no clarification of what this may look like. “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.”
Australia Has Introduced Sanctions
On Wednesday, Morrison announced Australia will immediately impose sanctions on Russia in response to the troops entering Russia. Morrison describes this occupation of the Donbas as an “invasion.”
Australia’s sanctions include travel bans and targeted financial sanctions to eight members of the Security Council of the Russian Federation to target “the perpetrators and beneficiaries of this violence.”
Sanctions will also apply to Russian banks, transport, energy, telecommunications, gas, oil, minerals and entities linked to Moscow. The two separatist states of Donetsk and Luhansk will now also be subject to the same sanctions imposed on Crimea — introduced in 2014 “in response to the Russian threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
It’s worth noting that this is the start of Australia’s sanctions — and Morrison reserves the right to ramp this up as deemed necessary.
“This is only the start of this process,”said Morrison on Wednesday. “We will be adding names to the list.
“And we’ll be ratcheting it up further to potentially other areas of economic activity.”
It’s unclear which individuals or organisations are specifically being sanctioned, but Morrison confirmed Australia’s list mirrors those being sanctioned by the US and the UK. Morrison also noted that Australia’s sanctions policy has scope to extend to anyone “aiding and abetting” Russia.
“It’s included to capture persons and entities of what is termed ‘strategic and economic significance to Russia’ and so that gives us a broad coverage to ensure that we can target those who are particularly involved in these actions and who are aiding and abetting this invasion,” said Morrison.
What Is The Advice To Australians In Ukraine?
As per Australia’s Smart Traveller website, the official advice is: “Do not travel to Ukraine. If you’re in Ukraine, leave immediately. Do not delay.”
If you — or someone you know — is stuck in Ukraine, more information on how to seek help can be found here.
What Are We Doing To Help Ukrainians?
Morrison has also announced that the Immigration Minister has been instructed to accelerate the processing of visa applications of Ukrainian nationals, who may want to flee the country due to the immediate threat of invasion.
“They will go to the top of the pile and I’ve asked for those to be concluded urgently,” Morrison told reporters.
Additionally, Australia will work with other European nations like Poland to help provide humanitarian refuge for those fleeing Ukraine. “This is where we think we can provide some quite effective assistance,” said Morrison. “I’ll be speaking next week to the Polish Prime Minister, I’ll be speaking tonight to the Ukrainian [President] and discussing these matters.”
“But we’ll be working with and providing support to the Polish government and others who are providing direct assistance to those persons where they are being accommodated in those countries.”