Australia munitions aid ‘won’t be the last’ for Ukraine

Dominic Giannini |

Australia is providing more military aid to Kyiv after Russian missiles hit a children’s hospital.
Australia is providing more military aid to Kyiv after Russian missiles hit a children’s hospital.

Ukraine has welcomed Australia’s largest military aid package that includes air defence missiles, air-to-ground weapons and anti-tank weapons with its envoy signalling a defence pact as a logical next step.

Defence Minister Richard Marles unveiled a $250 million package during a NATO security summit in Washington, focused on Ukraine’s security amid Russia’s ongoing war.

There was renewed emphasis on air defence systems after a barrage of Russian missiles killed about 40 people across the country and struck a children’s hospital in the capital Kyiv.

Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko welcomed the new package, saying the air defences were exactly what his nation needed.

“I’m very pleased to see the Australian government is stepping up assistance to Ukraine,” he told AAP.

“I think this is also a reaction to what Russia is doing here in the region, what Russia is doing with North Korea after the signing of the security agreement.”

Russia and China signing a “no limits” pact on the eve of Moscow’s invasion “was hugely consequential for the world” and those in the Indo-Pacific would take lessons from what happened in Ukraine, Mr Marles said. 

Australia supported NATO nations branding China a “decisive enabler”, he said.

Ukraine Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroschnychenko
Air defences are exactly what Ukraine needs, ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko says. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

A bilateral security or defence pact between the two nations, similar to what other G7 countries had signed with Ukraine, “would be a logical step forward given how consistent Australian support is”, Mr Myroshnychenko said. 

Australia would continue to work with Ukraine around what support was needed to counter Russia’s invasion, Mr Marles said when asked about such an agreement.

Australia’s intent and reliability had been completely clear and this wouldn’t be the last aid package for Ukraine, he said.

“The conversations that we’ve been having with Ukraine, really the focus has been on providing the support, the particular support that Ukraine has been seeking, and obviously at a scale which is meaningful to them,” he told ABC Radio.

“They know we are there for the long term … and we’ll continue to engage with them on that basis.”

Mr Marles met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy alongside other leaders from the so-called Indo-Pacific four nations on the sideline of the summit.

In addition to the new missiles Australia will supply artillery, mortar, cannon and small arms ammunition as well as a shipment of boots.

Australia will also join NATO’s new security and training initiative for Ukraine as a non-member partner, enabling defence personnel to contribute to planning and NATO-led military activity.

A small number of people who are already working in Europe will transfer to the NATO initiative in the first instance, Mr Marles said.

Defence Minister Richard Marles and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese
Defence Minister Richard Marles says the latest Ukraine assistance package will not be the last. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The defence minister also signed a memorandum of understanding on the drone coalition for Ukraine while in Washington.

The US  also announced further air defence aid for Ukraine, with former Ukrainian defence minister Andriy Zagorodnyuk saying the recent barrage of Russian rockets showed they “learned how to overwhelm existing systems”.

NATO nations also needed to work on a plan to end the war rather than prop up Ukraine’s defence, so it does not continue to drag on, he said. 

Opposition foreign spokesman Simon Birmingham welcomed the latest round of military aid, saying Ukraine’s fight was “a test of the willingness of leading democracies to stand firm against aggression”.

“Additional Australian support for Ukraine is welcome, especially the provision of missiles and weapons so clearly needed to defeat Russia,” he said on social media platform X.

AAP