The Australian government will be offering support for Ukraine in the long-term, the acting Prime Minister says, but the how the conflict with Russia is resolved should be up to Ukraine.
Of the 60 Australian-built Bushmaster vehicles that Australia has already committed to Ukraine, 40 have been sent to date, along with six lightweight Howitzers and unmanned aerial systems, Richard Marles confirmed.
“We do need to be preparing ourselves for protracted conflict there, and on that basis, we get that we are going to need to provide support for Ukraine over the long term,” he told Insiders on Sunday.
After significant gains this week with the reclaiming of more than 8,000 square kilometres of territory in the conflict, Ukraine is still not in control of about a fifth of its country’s pre-conflict territory as well as Crimea annexed by Russia in 2014. Russian forces did however retreat from the Kharkiv region in the north-east of the country.
After six months of fighting, the sides have settled on either side of the Oskil river, which was a significant natural barrier, Mr Marles said.
While Australia’s future involvement, however long that is, would be to empower Ukraine to choose how the conflict resolves.
“Our objective is to empower Ukraine itself to be able to be at the centre of however this is resolved. This needs to be resolved on their terms,” he said.
“That has to be the outcome given the unprovoked aggression that we saw from Russia at the outset of this.”
European leaders were in agreement on allowing Ukraine to direct discussions of victory conditions and preferred outcomes, he said after meeting with several weeks ago.
US President Joe Biden has also described the conflict as “a long haul” this week, telling journalists that the question of how long it would take was unanswerable.
After regaining the territory earlier in the week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said “we are moving in only one direction – forward and towards victory.”