Marise Payne says Aussie troops won’t be sent to Ukraine, but cyber assistance to be rendered

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Australia won’t send military assistance to Ukraine, but is considering cyber security support if Russia does not back down, as a growing chorus of global voices call for a de-escalation of tensions.

Amid fears of an imminent invasion, Australia’s foreign ministry overnight changed its advice – urging people not to travel to Ukraine, and for the 1400 Australians already there to leave the country if it is safe to do so.

Plans are in place to evacuate Australian family members of diplomats out of the capital Kiev, but diplomats and locally-engaged officials will remain.

The world is preparing for Russia to invade Ukraine, after 100,000 Russian troops were stationed at the border.

In response, NATO members began placing their troops on “standby” and ships and jets were sent to bolster Ukraine’s defence.

Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said the security situation was “unpredictable”, and that while Australia was in full support of Ukraine’s sovereignty, Australian defence personnel would not be sent.

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AUS UK Ministerial Consultations
Camera IconAustralian Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, and UK Foreign Minister Elizabeth discussed the Russia/Ukraine situation when they met in Sydney last week. NCA NewsWire/Dylan Robinson Credit: Supplied

“We have said that we will not be taking part, or would not take part in relation to military assistance,” Senator Payne told RN Breakfast on Tuesday.

“I spoke with the Foreign Minister of Ukraine last week in a very constructive conversation, and I had further consultation with Australia’s ambassador in Kiev on Friday

“We are asking our ambassador for Cyber Affairs and Critical Technology, Dr Toby Feakin, to discuss possible avenues of assistance from Australia to the Ukrainian government.

“In the cyber context there has been significant cuber attack already in the Ukraine, understood to have come potentially from Russian sources. And to be very clear, this is a challenge that they have been dealing with for some time.

“If Australia can assist in that regard, we will.”

Senator Payne said Australia, like its allies, had a very “clear and strong message” for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“We call upon Russia to take steps to de-escalate the situation,” she said.

“We are deeply concerned by the military build-up on Ukraine’s border … This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable from authoritarian regimes. It is not a case of might outweighs all in terms of exercise of power.

“This is unacceptable behaviour.”

Australia is one of a number of countries, alongside the UK, United States and Canada who have enacted sanctions against Russia, in the hopes of deterring further military action.

AUS UK Ministerial Consultations
Camera IconSenator Payne said there was room for more sanctions. NCA NewsWire/Dylan Robinson Credit: Supplied

Senator Payne said there was room for more sanctions, and that had been a point of discussion with the UK Foreign Secretary during her visit to Australia last week.

“They (sanctions) are a potential tool Australia can use in concert with like minded to indicate and to convey very strong concerns about such aggressive behaviour,” she said.

Meanwhile, Labor is asking the Morrison government to work in a “bipartisan way” to condemn Russia and ensure Ukraine’s sovereignty.

Tanya Plibersek said Labor wanted to work closely with the government.

“I think that it is very important that the government say what more Australia is prepared to do to support the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine,” she told ABC News.

“Labor wants to work closely with the Morrison government to make sure that that message is sent loud and clear.

“In an election year, it’s important hat we do this in a bipartisan way. That the government keep us up to date in any measures that they’re considering taking, and we would seek to work cooperatively with them.

“These things are too big for domestic politics … and could have global implications.”

Originally published as Marise Payne says Aussie troops won’t be sent to Ukraine, but cyber assistance to be rendered

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