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Australia’s remaining diplomatic staff to leave Ukraine


Australia’s remaining diplomatic staff in the Ukrainian city of Lviv will leave and move to eastern Poland and Romania.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has confirmed “due to the increased risk” the Australian officials have been directed to depart the country amid rising concerns about armed conflict.

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

Foreign Minister Marise Payne
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has confirmed “due to the increased risk” Australian officials have been directed to depart Ukraine. (Getty)
It comes as the Australian Government condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin‘s declaration today that the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine are independent states.

“This flagrantly undermines Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and has no validity under international law,” Ms Payne said.

“We also condemn President Putin’s announcement that Russia is deploying so-called ‘peacekeepers’ to eastern Ukraine.

“These personnel are not peacekeepers.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison echoed this today as he declared earlier Russia “should step back”.

Mr Morrison described the suggestion that troops were being ordered into the Moscow-backed separatist territories to maintain peace as “nonsense”.

“It should unconditionally withdraw back behind its own borders and stop threatening its neighbours,” Mr Morrison said of the move, which appears to be a precursor for full-blown invasion.

It is unclear if Russian troop movements marked the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine that Western leaders have warned about for weeks.
It is unclear if Russian troop movements marked the beginning of an invasion of Ukraine that Western leaders have warned about for weeks. (Manu Brabo / Getty Images)

“It’s unacceptable, it’s unprovoked, it’s unwarranted,” he said.

Ms Payne said the Australian Government is coordinating closely with the US, UK, European Union and other governments around the world “to ensure there are severe costs for Russia’s aggression”.

“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,” she said.

Former prime minister Tony Abbott warned Russia could try to invade Poland and the Baltic states if it succeeds in Ukraine.
Speaking with The Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Abbott said Russia could be on the brink of bringing down a “new Iron Curtain” on eastern Europe.

Mr Morrison said he was “aware” of Mr Abbott’s comments but that he was focused on immediate developments.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has also condemned the action and called for Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty.

“We condemn Russia’s unilateral recognition of breakaway territories in Ukraine,” Mr Albanese said from Tasmania.

“We respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. Russia should do that too, in accordance with international law.

“There is no place in 2022 for nation-states to try to carve off sections of another sovereign nation-state, which is what we’re seeing here.”

Mr Albanese called on other nations to join in the condemnation of Russia’s actions.

“We also think that China and other countries need to speak out in support of the sovereignty of Ukraine,” he said.

Kevin Rudd, who preceded Mr Abbott as prime minister, also hit out at Moscow.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a gross violation of international law demanding universal condemnation by all, including China,” he wrote on Twitter.

“Respecting the integrity of national borders is axiomatic to global order.

“It also happens to be a core precept of China’s stated foreign policy doctrine.”

Earlier today Mr Putin recognised the two pro-Moscow territories – the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic – as independent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a "peacekeeping" mission, just hours after he signed decrees recognising the independence of the Moscow-backed regions.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered troops into separatist-held parts of eastern Ukraine in what the Kremlin called a “peacekeeping” mission, just hours after he signed decrees recognising the independence of the Moscow-backed regions. (Svetlana Kisileva/Abaca/Sip/AP)

US to hit breakaway regions with sanctions

President Joe Biden plans to impose new sanctions on trade and financing in the two territories.

Mr Biden’s executive order will also allow the US to impose sanctions on anyone operating in those areas.

In a statement, the White House said Joe Biden would sign an executive order that would "prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine."
In a statement, the White House said Joe Biden would sign an executive order that would “prohibit new investment, trade, and financing by US persons to, from, or in the so-called DNR and LNR regions of Ukraine.” (AP)

The White House said it would “soon announce additional measures related to today’s blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”

NATO and European officials also condemned Mr Putin’s actions in statements. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the move “further undermines” Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The UK plans to announce new sanctions on Russia on Tuesday (local time), UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Twitter.

Mr Biden has consulted with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on a call today.

He also spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.



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