Australia condemns Russia’s ‘unlawful’ declarations, evacuates embassy staff from Ukraine

By Melissa Coade

February 23, 2022

Marise Payne
The foreign minister says Putin’s declaration flagrantly undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

The Russian announcement that the eastern Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were considered by Vladimir Putin as independent states have no validity under international law, Marise Payne has said.

The Russian president used a live televised broadcast of an extraordinary national security council meeting to reveal his administration would be sending troops to Donetsk and Luhansk for ‘peacekeeping’ reasons. 

The news followed a round of high-stakes diplomatic talks between Russia and France’s Emmanuel Macron, as well as hopes Putin would agree to direct talks with US president Joe Biden on the condition that Russia promised not to invade.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Australian foreign minister said Putin’s declaration flagrantly undermined Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. She went further, tweeting that nobody would be fooled by Russia’s ‘propoganda’. 

“We condemn president Putin’s announcement that Russia is deploying so-called ‘peacekeepers’ to eastern Ukraine. These personnel are not peacekeepers,” Payne said.

“The Australian government is coordinating closely with the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and other governments around the world to ensure there are severe costs for Russia’s aggression.”

On Tuesday, Biden announced sanctions against the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk republics and said the US would cut ties with Russian banks if Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory. 

The White House revealed its plan for an initial package of sanctions against Russia at the weekend, which included adding certain Russian nationals and companies to its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list with the effect of freezing their US assets and preventing them from trading with Americans. 

“Along with our partners, we are prepared to announce swift and severe sanctions that would target key Russian individuals and entities responsible for undermining Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Payne said. 

The foreign minister reiterated the call for all Australians to ‘leave Ukraine immediately’, without delay. Australian embassy staff moved their operations from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv closer to the border with Poland last week.

Payne said officials had now temporarily closed embassy operations in Lviv and were redeployed to Poland and Romania where they would continue to assist Australians seeking to depart Ukraine.

DFAT’s 24-hour consular emergency centre is fielding the calls of Australians seeking consular assistance. People in Ukraine who need Australian consular assistance should call 1300 555 135 or +61 2 6261 3305 if dialling from outside Australia.

“Australia stands in solidarity with Ukraine and continues to call on Russia to cease and reverse its unprovoked assault on its democratic neighbour,” Payne said.


READ MORE:

What diplomats need to know: Walking the walk is the foil to Putin’s military threat in Ukraine

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