Defense Minister Richard Marles prepares for a protracted conflict in Ukraine, while Russian President Vladimir Putin warns of nuclear retaliation if his country’s borders are crossed.
Ukraine has reclaimed territory in the east of the country, forcing Russia to withdraw from previously occupied territory.
Russia is trying to formalize its annexation of parts of Ukraine by holding referendums on secession, which have been labeled a sham and illegal by much of the international community.
Marles described the Russian president’s threats as appalling.
“We’ve seen President Putin go there before and it’s a real concern that he speaks this way,” he told reporters in Canberra.
Ukraine has asked Australia for military aid in the form of more Bushmaster vehicles and artillery.
The opposition is urging the government to act quickly.
Opposition leader and former Defense Secretary Peter Dutton said Marles needed to cut through the bureaucracy of the Ministry of Defence.
“We want to get equipment, support and defense equipment into the hands of the Ukrainians as soon as possible,” Dutton told Nine Network.
“This is the time for the world to stand up, be heard and speak out loud against these acts of aggression.”
Marles said the conflict is expected to drag on and the government will continue to work with Ukrainian officials to provide continued support.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said there should be no escalation in the conflict as long as Mr Putin did not resort to weapons of mass destruction.
But Mr Myroshnychenko acknowledged that the conflict was likely to get worse before it got better.
“We need more (support) because this is going to be difficult,” he told TBEN TV.
“We need more artillery and combat drones and more Bushmasters.”