Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed directly to Australian lawmakers Thursday for more help in its war against Russia, including armoured vehicles and tougher sanctions.
Zelensky has been tailoring his message to individual countries through video appeals like the one shown to legislators in the Australian Parliament. Lawmakers gave him standing ovation at the start and end of his 16-minute address.
He called for Russian vessels to be banned from international ports.
“We need more sanctions against Russia, powerful sanctions until they stop blackmailing other countries with their nuclear missiles,” Zelensky said through an interpreter.
Zelensky specifically asked for Australian-manufactured Bushmaster four-wheel-drive armoured vehicles.
“You have very good armed personnel vehicles, Bushmasters, that could help Ukraine substantially, and other pieces of equipment,” Zelensky said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier told the president that Australia would provide additional military assistance including tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations and medical supplies. He did not quantify the assistance or say how much it cost.
“You have our prayers, but you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom and you even have our coal,” Morrison said.
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Australia has already promised or provided Ukraine with 91 million Australian dollars ($68 million) in military assistance, AU$65 million ($49 million) in humanitarian help and 70,000 metric tons (77,200 U.S. tons) of coal.
Earlier Thursday, the government announced Australia was imposing an additional 35% tariff on all imports from Russia and Belarus starting April 25.
Oil and energy imports from Russia will be banned from that date. Exports to Russia of Australian aluminum ore will also be banned.
Sanctions have been imposed on more than 500 individuals and entities in Russia and Belarus. The sanctions cover 80% of the Russian banking sector and all government entities that handle Russian sovereign debt.
Jeremy Fleming, who heads Britain’s electronic spy agency Government Communications Headquarters, used a speech in the Australian capital Canberra on Thursday to praise Zelensky’s “information operation.”
Fleming said Zelensky had been highly effective at countering Russia’s massive disinformation drive spreading propaganda about the war.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had apparently “massively misjudged” the incursion, he said.
“We’ve seen Russian soldiers, short of weapons and morale, refusing to carry out orders, sabotaging their own equipment and even accidentally shooting down their own aircraft,” Fleming said.