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Kat Wong and Dominic Giannini

Australia's $50m aid commitment welcomed by Ukraine

Ukraine's ambassador to Australia has welcomed an additional $50 million in aid, describing the assistance as a meaningful contribution to protecting democracy.

While the two nations were on opposite sides of the globe, both sought to uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law, Vasyl Myroshnychenko said.

"This is great news," he told AAP.

"I'm extremely grateful for strengthening the defence capabilities of Ukraine by making the contribution."

Ukrainian Ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko.
Vasyl Myroshnychenko said Ukraine and Australia uphold democracy, human rights and rule of law. (Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS)

The money came on the second anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

It will go to the International Fund for Ukraine, which uses contributions from across the world to procure military equipment and provide both lethal and non-lethal support.

Australia would stand with Ukraine for as long as it took, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said.

"Australia has always been willing to step up," he told parliament on Thursday.

"We do it because we're steadfast in our commitment to global security and the international rule of law."

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. (Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS)

The Australian government has provided about $960 million in support for Ukraine including 120 armoured Bushmaster vehicles, six Howitzer artillery weapons and 14 special operations vehicles.

Australian personnel have also assisted in training Ukrainian soldiers in the UK, and the government has imposed sanctions and travel bans on 1100 individuals and entities.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton also paid tribute to those in Ukraine and called the additional funding an investment in global security and democracy.

"Russia's invasion was illegal, it was immoral, it was unprovoked, it was unjust, it was unacceptable," he said.

"It was a reminder that the days of despots are not gone and the age of autocrats is not behind us.

"Ukrainians are not just fighting for their freedom, they are on the front line of the battle for civilisation itself."

Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton.
Peter Dutton says extra funding for Ukraine is an investment in global security and democracy. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

While the coalition welcomed the support, opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham questioned why the government hadn't responded to Ukraine's request for coal, something the previous coalition government did.

Military funding was a priority, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said.

The Ukrainian government made it clear the coal request related to energy needs next winter, Foreign Affairs Department deputy secretary Rod Brazier said.

"Therefore there is still the opportunity to consider this further," he told a parliamentary hearing.

Ukraine would be happy to receive the coal all year round as it's used for electricity needs, not just heating, and nuclear plants were set to be shut down for maintenance over the summer, the ambassador said.

Senator Birmingham also pressed government officials on why Australia's Ukrainian embassy hadn't been moved back from Poland to Kyiv despite partner nations doing so.

Australia's ambassador-designate Paul Lehmann is yet to set foot in the country after his appointment was announced two months ago.

The need for him to present his credentials to Kyiv to officially take up the post meant the timing was up to the Ukrainian government, Foreign Affairs Department secretary Jan Adams said.

The ambassador is in the process of arranging a visit.

DFAT Secretary Jan Adams and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong.
DFAT Secretary Jan Adams and Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong listen to questions on Ukraine. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

The department also continued to assess the security situation, with people still spending nights in bomb shelters and Russian missiles getting through air defence systems, Ms Adams said.

"There's not really a very safe workplace and we're operating under Australian law," she told a Senate hearing.

"It's a very unpredictable situation."

Australian officials were able to do their job "quite effectively" from Poland, she added.

The former ambassador's last visit was in late November 2023.

There have been nearly 30,000 civilian casualties including 10,000 killed since the February 2022 invasion, according to the United Nations.

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