- Foreign Minister Marise Payne has accused Russia of committing war crimes.
- Australia will send $75 million in additional support to Ukraine.
- Ms Payne has described the situation in the besieged port city of Mariupol as “dire”.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has accused Russia of committing war crimes in Ukraine, echoing similar comments made by US President Joe Biden.
Senator Payne said Russian President Vladimir Putin must be held to account over the invasion of Ukraine, which she said was creating the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne accused Russia of committing war crimes, during a press conference at Kirribilli House with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. Credit: Renee Nowytarger
“The Russian military has bombed at least one maternity hospital,” Senator Payne said. “More recently a civilian shelter, a theatre with families sheltering inside, and those civilian casualties continue to climb. The targeting of innocent civilians and civilian structure are war crimes, and President Putin must be held to account.”
More than 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced and 3.3 million – half of whom are children – have fled to neighbouring countries, representing about a quarter of Ukraine’s population.
Senator Payne’s comments came just days after Mr Biden called the Russian President a war criminal, which was swiftly condemned by the Kremlin and described as “unacceptable and unforgivable”.
Australia has increased its aid to Ukraine and will send close to $75 million in additional support to assist Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces, including weapons, humanitarian help and 70,000 tonnes of coal.
The extra $21 million in military assistance for the Ukrainian armed forces will bring Australia’s total military assistance to $91 million and has, to date, included missiles and ammunition.
Another $30 million in emergency humanitarian assistance that will focus on protecting women, children, the elderly and the disabled in Ukraine is also part of the package and takes humanitarian assistance to $65 million.
The Overseas Aid Gift Deduction scheme will be amended to allow donations made to approved organisations supporting Ukrainian refugees to be tax deductible.
“Many people remain trapped in areas of escalating Russian aggression with essential services disrupted and unable to access sufficient food or water or medications,” the Foreign Minister said.
“We know the situation in Mariupol is particularly dire.
“As a government, we have consistently reiterated our absolute support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do so again today, and we call upon Russia to end this unprovoked illegal war, and to remove their forces from Ukraine.”
On Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade banned the export of all aluminium ores including bauxite, alumina, and other related products to Russia in a move that will block Rio Tinto and its Russian business partner Rusal.
The government rushed to impose the export ban after authorities became aware that a ship owned by Rusal was due to dock in Australia this week to collect aluminium from Gladstone refinery Queensland Alumina Limited (QAL). Rusal owns a 20 per cent stake in QAL, while Rio owns the other 80 per cent.
Aluminium is a key component in the creation of missiles and weapons such as bombs due to its strength and light weight. Aluminium is a major export for Russia, which gets 20 per cent of its alumina from Australia.
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, who owns a 45 per cent stake in Rusal via an investment entity, was added to the sanction list last week.
A spokesman for Rio Tinto said the company was in the process of terminating all commercial relationships it has with any Russian businesses.
“Our priority remains the wellbeing of our people, our communities and the continued safe operation of our businesses, in full compliance with all governmental directions, including the Queensland Alumina Limited joint venture.“
Because the new export ban does not sanction Rusal directly, Rio Tinto has no legal grounds to break its partnership with Rusal. Rusal can continue operating in Australia and export aluminium to other markets, but is blocked from sending it to Russia.
A spokesman for Rusal said Mr Deripaska was temporarily sanctioned by the US’s Department of the Treasury’s Office in 2018, but then released after he drastically reduced his stake in Rusal, including being blocked from receiving dividends.
Russian forces have pushed deeper into Mariupol, the scene of some of the war’s worst suffering and home to about 450,000 people. If the port city falls it would mark a major battlefield advance for the Russians, who are largely bogged down outside major cities more than three weeks into the war.
The Ukrainian army has fiercely resisted the Russian invasion.Credit:Kate Geraghty
“Children, elderly people are dying. The city is destroyed and it is wiped off the face of the earth,” Mariupol police officer Michail Vershnin said from a rubble-strewn street in a video addressed to Western leaders that was authenticated by the Associated Press.
Russia has cut Mariupol off from the Sea of Azov, and its fall would link Crimea, which the Kremlin annexed in 2014, to eastern territories controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.
With AP, Reuters
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