Ukraine’s president has warned Russian aggression posed a real threat to countries like Australia, as the federal government pledged $25 million in additional military assistance for the besieged nation.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a joint sitting of parliament on Thursday Russia needed to pay the “highest price” for its invasion of Ukraine.
“That is the nature of evil – it can instantly cross any distance, any barriers, destroy lives,” he said.
“Unpunished evil comes back with inspiration and a feeling of almightiness.”
President Zelenskiy called for further access to Australian military vehicles, such as the Bushmaster, to help Ukraine defend territory against Russian forces.
“That could help Ukraine significantly – we would be very grateful if you could share those with us,” he said.
“The geographical distance between us is huge, but what does this distance mean for those who have a common understanding?
“Geography doesn’t matter.”
It comes as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a further $25 million of defensive military equipment would be provided to Ukraine, at the request of President Zelenskiy.
The pledge would see Australia’s total military assistance to Ukraine reach $116 million.
The federal government has already provided $65 million of humanitarian assistance and 70,000 tonnes of thermal coals for Ukraine’s energy needs.
Mr Morrison used his opening remarks to President Zelenskiy’s address to brand Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal.
“Ukraine and Australia are separated by half the earth. Our languages, accents, histories and cultures are different but we share an affinity for democracy or freedom,” Mr Morrison told the president and the parliament.
“Mr President, you have our praise. But you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom.”
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese likened Russia’s invasion to the devastation wrought by Hitler in World War II, saying Putin’s aggression was prefaced by a “poisonous, nationalistic lie”.
“As you stand up to this latest tyrant, you are showing us what true courage is,” Mr Albanese said.
“It is the courage that is embodied by you (President Zelenskiy). You are fighting for your country and your people.”