The Morrison government has approved a new shipment of military aid to Ukraine. Australia will now send several howitzers and ammunition to the Ukrainian Armed Forces, on top of a consignment of weapons systems announced in early April.
As the latest aid package, the howitzers bring Australia’s total military assistance to Ukraine to over $225 million. Ukraine is facing a renewed Russian attack on its eastern flank, where separatist strongholds provide a potential link to Crimea.
On the 31st of March, Ukrainian President Zelensky directly addressed the Australian parliament, asking for urgent military aid. In response, the government approved a set of 20 Bushmasters a week later.
Bushmasters are Australian-built vehicles meant for protected transport, and can be used to shield soldiers and civilians from mines, shrapnel and small arms fire while on the move. Also included in the April 8 package were 14 protected weapons systems, ammunition, military and medical supplies, 70,000 tonnes of thermal coal and $65 million in humanitarian aid.
In another recent contribution, Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed Australia would send experts to assist in legal investigations of Russian war crimes. This action was taken in response to reports of massacres in Bucha.
Now, the government has agreed to an additional $26.7 million of military aid, comprising six M777 lightweight towed howitzers and further ammunition. The approval came after Ukraine’s Ambassador to Canberra, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, made a renewed plea for assistance to relieve the “staggering” suffering of his homeland.
A survey of over one thousand Australians conducted by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age at the beginning of April revealed the majority of Aussies back sending aid to Ukraine. 81% supported sending medical equipment and 75% supported sending non-lethal military aid, though only 55% backed lethal aid.
Ramstein Air Base Meeting
Australia’s latest support packet was announced as it attended a meeting hosted by the US in Germany over the developing situation in Ukraine. US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin gathered 40 nations at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany last Tuesday.
Washington announced the meeting would morph into regular talks held at Ramstein on a roughly monthly basis. NATO’s Secretary General Jans Stoltenberg was in attendance last week, but the Ramstein talks involved allies both inside and outside NATO.
Austin said Kyiv’s allies would “keep moving heaven and Earth” to buttress Ukraine’s defence.
The Morrison government has said it “will continue to identify opportunities for further Defensive Military Assistance where it is able to provide a required capability to the Ukraine Armed Forces expeditiously.”
“Australia stands with the Government and people of Ukraine, and calls on Russia to cease its unprovoked, unjust and illegal invasion of Ukraine. The Australian Government will continue to take steps, together with our partners, to ensure Russia pays the highest possible price for its actions.”
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