30 April 2024

Marles boosts Australian war aid during Ukraine visit, but embassy remains closed

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Richard Marles (left row, third from top) is welcomed to Ukraine by Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Deputy Minister of Defence Lieutenant General Ivan Havryliuk. Photos: ADF.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles has used a visit to western Ukraine to announce a $100 million boost in military aid to the armed forces of Ukraine, but has refused to commit to a reopening of Australia’s embassy in Kyiv.

After attending Anzac Day commemorations in Gallipoli and visiting his Polish counterpart Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz in Warsaw, Mr Marles met the Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and Deputy Minister of Defence Lieutenant General Ivan Havryliuk in the western city of Lviv.

During his visit to Lviv, Mr Marles announced Australia would provide a $50 million package of military assistance with the support of the Australian defence industry, including $30 million of unspecified uncrewed aerial systems (UAS) through its recently announced membership of the multinational ”drone coalition”.

READ ALSO Australia joins multinational ‘drone coalition’ to supply machines to Ukraine

It also includes $15 million worth of equipment such as combat helmets, rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIB), boots, fire masks and generators.

Mr Marles said an additional $50 million worth of RBS 70 short-range air defence systems, and unspecified air-to-ground precision munitions, would also be supplied.

The Australian Army is phasing out its RBS 70 portable short-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system in favour of the newer enhanced NASAMS system, the first of which was recently delivered to the army.

The RBS 70 fires a laser-guided Bolide missile from a tripod-mounted launcher, and is particularly effective against UAS, helicopters and low-flying aircraft at ranges up to nine kilometres.

soldiers launching missile

A Bolide laser-guided surface-to-air missile is fired from an Australian Army RBS 70 short-range air defence system launcher.

The announcement takes the value of Australia’s military equipment contribution to the Ukrainian war effort since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022 to $880 million.

“Australia remains committed to supporting Ukraine to resolve the conflict on its terms,” Mr Marles said.

“Ukraine and its people have endured more than two years of Russia’s full-scale invasion but their spirit remains strong. This was reaffirmed during my meeting with Prime Minister Shmyhal.

“Australia is proud to be working with our partners, including Poland, to support Ukraine’s self-defence.

“We will continue to support Ukraine, this will not be the last announcement that we make. This is an enduring conflict. We will stand with Ukraine for the long term, until Ukraine is able to resolve this war on its terms.

READ ALSO RAAF E-7A Wedgetail surveillance aircraft heads home from Ukraine support role

“There is something amazing about that when you consider that most commentators imagined that this conflict would be over within three weeks. And here we are, more than two years down the track, watching Ukraine’s brave resistance.”

Prime Minister Shmyhal said he was pleased to welcome Mr Marles to Lviv.

“I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to the people and government of Australia for a clear and consistent position on Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemning Russian aggression,” he said.

“Of special importance is the fact that Australia consistently announces new aid packages for Ukraine.

“We greatly appreciate such solidarity from the Australian people with Ukraine. Although we are situated in different parts of the planet, we have shared values and shared priorities.”

two politicians shaking hands

Mr Marles is welcomed to Lviv on 27 April by Lviv Town Mayor Andriy Sadovyi.

Mr Marles was asked about Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s request for the Australian Ambassador and his staff to come back to Kyiv from their temporary embassy in Poland, and whether it was embarrassing that every major Western country in the world has an ambassador in Kyiv but Australia doesn’t.

“Paul Lehmann is our Ambassador to Ukraine – he is literally with me right now,” he said.

“Our focus, though, is on providing military support. And we are doing that in this tranche, and we’ll continue to do that going forward.

“Putting our embassy back in Kyiv is a matter which is under active consideration. We’ll continue to work that through. But the focus is on making sure that we are providing Ukraine with the military support that they need.

“There’s a range of issues associated with that, which are being processed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But I think the point I want to emphasise is that as we work through those issues, that is not stopping us from engaging with Ukraine.”

In a social media post on Sunday, Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko described Mr Marles’s visit and announcement as “Aussie mateship in action”.

“Extremely grateful to the DPM and MoD Richard Marles for traveling to Ukraine to demonstrate solidarity with the people of Ukraine and meet Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Lviv,” he said in a LinkedIn post.

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