Doorstop interview, Lviv, Ukraine

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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02 6277 7800

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27 April 2024

SUBJECTS: Visit to Ukraine; Announcement of additional military support for Ukraine. 

DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER, RICHARD MARLES: It's an honour, really, to be here in Ukraine today and to have met the Prime Minister of Ukraine here in Lviv. Today, we have announced the next tranche of support for Ukraine. It's a $100 million package consisting of $50 million for short range air defence systems, a $30 million contribution to the purchase of drones as part of our now being a part of the drone coalition being led by the United Kingdom and Latvia, and the balance is on a range of measures such as rigid hulled inflatable boats, helmets and boots. We've also been able to announce today that we have provided to Ukraine air to ground precision munitions. This takes our overall military support to Ukraine now to $880 million, our overall support to Ukraine since the beginning of this war is more than $1 billion dollars. But we will continue to support Ukraine, this will not be the last announcement that we make. This is an enduring conflict. We will stand with Ukraine for the long term, until Ukraine is able to resolve this war on its terms. We really understand that while Ukraine is here fighting for its sovereignty and for its nation, it is also fighting for the maintenance of the global rules-based order and in that sense, it's fighting for us.

JOURNALIST: You're the first Australian minister to visit in almost two years, basically. How important was it to be here? And how much has it changed your view?

MARLES: Look, I think it is very important to demonstrate support for Ukraine by coming here and particularly at this time. The conflict has now been going for more than two years and there is something amazing about that when you consider that most commentators imagined that this conflict would be over within three weeks. And here we are more than two years down the track, watching Ukraine's brave resistance. But at the same time, it's really important that the world doesn't forget Ukraine. It matters that people are coming here and that people and countries are continuing to provide support. So that's why we felt it was very important, on this occasion, not just to announce a tranche of support, but to announce it here in Ukraine. You know, speaking personally, you cannot help but be moved by the bravery of those in Ukraine for what they are doing. The degree to which this plays such a burden on this country, in circumstances where they are really on the front line of fighting for the global rules-based order and for Australia, our national interest is completely engaged by that. 

JOURNALIST: The longer this conflict goes on the louder the calls may become towards sort of a compromise result and these sorts. You've made it very clear today that it has to be on Ukraine's terms. What does that mean for you in that sense?

MARLES: Well, it means that. I mean, Ukraine need to be empowered to resolve this on their terms. And so right now, our focus is on assisting Ukraine and maximising its military position so that it is able to do that. And then it is a matter for Ukraine in terms of how it wants to resolve this. Obviously, President Zelenskyy is now talking about a global peace summit, with Ukraine's proposal in relation to that, that starts the ball rolling in terms of how Ukraine sees the end of this. But what is critically important from Australia's point of view is that we are empowering Ukraine to resolve this on its own terms. 

JOURNALIST: Is $100 million worth of funding enough? There is an argument that the more money you spend now, the less you will have to spend long term. We’ve seen other nations – Britain, I think dropped half a billion pounds the other day as sort of just another update to a package. Could there be more than $100 million worth of support from Australia and this package?

MARLES: Well, I make the point that we will be continuing to provide support to Ukraine, as we have provided support to Ukraine prior to this package. This is just the next tranche of support. It is by no means the end. But everywhere I've gone both here in Ukraine, yesterday in Poland, there is an enormous sense of gratitude for the role that Australia is playing, the role that we're playing as a country which is literally on the other side of the planet. And there is the financial support that we're providing, but we're obviously doing the training under Operation Interflex, Operation Kudu in the UK, we've had the E-7 Wedgetail playing a really important role in the skies adjacent to Ukraine. We continue to support Ukraine in lots of ways and that will be ongoing. And that support has been really gratefully received by the government of Ukraine and by its friends and allies.

JOURNALIST: More than a year ago, President Zelenskyy told me that he wanted the Australian Ambassador back in Kyiv. Today we heard the Prime Minister say “I'd love to see more of you in Kyiv” to the Ambassador. Is it now getting embarrassing that every major western country in the world has an ambassador in Kyiv and we don't?

MARLES: Look, Paul Lehmann is our Ambassador to Ukraine. He is literally with me right now. He's provided his credentials to President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian government. Our focus, though, is on providing military support. And we are doing that in this trench. And we'll continue to do that going forward. Putting our embassy back in Kyiv is a matter which is under active consideration. We'll continue to work that through. But the focus is on making sure that we are providing Ukraine with the military support that they need.

JOURNALIST: What did the Prime Minister say to you in terms of what help they might need down the track, today?

MARLES: Well, I'm not going to go into the specifics, but there were specifics and we continue to talk with the government of Ukraine about the precise systems, contributions that they need. And as you would imagine, that's an evolving landscape. I mean, drones is a very good example of that. We're seeing an evolution of drone warfare in this conflict, the likes of which people would not have imagined two years ago. That in turn has led us to participate in the drone coalition and make a $30 million contribution in respect of drones today. So that is an example of how we are working very closely with Ukraine, listening to the specifics of what they need and we'll continue to do that. A number of those were raised today, we'll work them through. And you'll see the expression of them in future tranches.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident that the western support is there for the long term? We've obviously seen, it's been a very hard few months for the Ukrainian army, they've lost a lot of ground in the east. And, you know, people are saying that Russian offensive over the spring will be very damaging. Are you confident that there's enough western support for Ukraine right now?

MARLES: Well, I think it has been a very challenging time. And that's why I was very keen to come to Ukraine today. Because I think this is a moment where the world needs to stand up on behalf of Ukraine. But I also think it is. I mean, we've seen the package pass through the United States. That is huge for Ukraine, a huge boost in morale. We've seen a very significant package be announced by the United Kingdom. And we making our own announcement today as well. So I think you are seeing momentum on behalf of the international community in support of Ukraine, that really is important. The simple answer to that question is, we cannot afford to see Ukraine fail. The maintenance of the global rules-based order is what's at stake. Global peace and security is what's at stake. And that's why it is absolutely essential that Ukraine is able to resolve this conflict on its terms.

JOURNALIST: Just very quickly, I'm sorry to hark back to it regarding the embassy. What is the reason that it's not open? Because we surely have the same intelligence, security concerns as the United States, Canada and United Kingdom? Why is ours closed and everyone else's open?

MARLES: Again, I mean, we're working through the logistics and the issues of reopening an embassy in Kyiv. There's a range of issues associated with that which are being processed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. But I think the point I want to emphasise is that as we work through those issues, that is not stopping us from engaging with Ukraine. The Ambassador is here with me today. We're announcing packages of support today. I'm here today. And we will continue to engage very closely with Ukraine, and we will work through the issue of the place of the residence of our Ambassador. But in the meantime, we'll continue our support for Ukraine. 


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