Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia is hopeful Anthony Albanese will soon visit Kyiv to witness firsthand the destruction wrought by Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Vasyl Myroshnychenko, who was posted to Canberra in April, sent an invitation to the Prime Minister from Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky after Labor’s election win.
The earliest opportunity for the visit, the first by an Australian PM, would be if Mr Albanese attends a NATO summit in Madrid later this month.
Mr Zelensky’s letter to Mr Albanese expressed confidence Australia would continue to provide “invaluable” military support and expressed hope the country would be part of the reconstruction of Ukraine.
Speaking at the Ukrainian embassy in Canberra, Mr Myroshnychenko told The West: “Are there any other global issue which will be more important than Ukraine now?
“So if not now, then when (will Mr Albanese visit Ukraine)?
“And if he comes, it’s going to be the first trip ever by a Prime Minister of Australia to Ukraine. That’s going to be totally historic.
“If he comes, he’s going be hosted by the President. Mr Zelensky is now in high demand, but I’m sure he would make himself available for Prime Minister Albanese.”
Mr Myroshnychenko, who met with the Department of Defence this week, said Ukraine needed more military assistance from Australia to counter Russia’s assault, which is concentrated on the eastern Donbas region.
He said Russia’s attempt to “change borders by force” could set a dangerous precedent in the Indo-Pacific region and the war’s impact on global energy and food supplies was hurting Australian households.
“The cost of living was affected by an international issue 15,000km away from Australia,” he said.
“I think the Australian people will understand that Australian leadership in solving this issue — in repelling Russians from Ukraine, in securing the borders of Ukraine — is in the interest of the common people of Australia.”
Mr Myroshnychenko, who has lost friends to the war, became emotional as he talked about the death last month of Australian man Michael O’Neill in Ukraine.
The 47-year-old father of three from Tasmania, who was a truck driver, joined a humanitarian organisation in March because he wanted to help.
The ambassador said he was not in a position to encourage Australians to join Ukraine’s International Legion, which consists of foreign citizens, describing it as an “individual choice”.
“I know many people joined from the US and Britain, some Australians did. I’m not encouraging that, I cannot, but the fact that they do join voluntarily is telling you a lot about why they believe it’s important,” he said.
Mr Myroshnychenko said the best way Australians could support Ukraine was to keep the war at the “top of their agenda” and by donating to the organisations helping the 14 million people who have been displaced.