Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) made a visit to Kyiv on Sunday for talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo courtesy of Office of the President of Ukraine/Release
July 4 (UPI) -- During a visit to the war-torn capital of Kyiv, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced an additional package of military assistance for Ukraine and further punitive measures targeting Russia.
The new leader of the island nation was in Kyiv on Sunday in a show of support for Ukraine and for talks with President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has been calling on allies for more and heavier weaponry to fend off Russia's military.
According to both governments, Canberra on Sunday pledged an additional $68 million worth of military assistance to Ukraine, including 14 armored personnel carries, 20 Bushmaster vehicles and other equipment as well as drones.
"Australia is ready to continue providing support to the Ukrainian state and its people for as long as it takes for Ukraine to gain an advantage and protect the law and order in which we all exist," Albanese said during a press conference with Zelensky.
The newly announced weaponry increases Australia's total military assistance to Ukraine to about $266 million since the war began in late February.
Canberra has also agreed to assist Ukraine's Border Guard Service with $6 million so it can upgrade its management equipment, improve cybersecurity and enhance border operations.
Albanese also announced duty free access for Ukrainian imports to Australia and a commitment to intervene at the International Court of Justice in support of Kyiv's case of war crimes committed by Russia.
Australia also blacklisted 16 Russian ministers and oligarchs with sanctions and travel bans and said it will join Britain, Canada, Japan, the United States and others in banning the import of Russian gold.
With the additions announced Sunday, Australia has sanctioned 843 people and 62 entities amid Russia's war, Albanese said.
During his trip to Kyiv, Albanese also visited Bucha, Irpin and Hostomel -- Ukrainian cities that have been devastated by the war and which officials point to as evidence of Kremlin war crimes.
Zelensky said Ukraine thanks Australia for its commitments to its defense while calling for greater international efforts to hold Russia to account.
"We must strengthen international cooperation in order to break Russia's aggressive potential," he said, according to a statement from his office. "We must increase the sanctions pressure on the aggressor."
Albanese's trip to Ukraine is the first by an Australian prime minister in the history of relations between the two countries.
Zelensky told his Canberra counterpart that he wished it could have occurred during peacetime.
"But we appreciate and are grateful for your presence here with us at this time of Russia's war against the Ukrainian people," he said.
Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, democratic nations have announced various punitive measures targeting Russia. They have also promised to arm Ukraine in its fight.
A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo