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Australia prepares for ‘protracted’ Ukraine war

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles says Australia is a "natural partner" for the Pacific.

Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles says Australia is a "natural partner" for the Pacific. Photo: AAP

Defence Minister Richard Marles is preparing for a protracted conflict in Ukraine as Russian president Vladimir Putin warns of nuclear retaliation if his country’s borders are impinged.

Ukraine has retaken ground in the nation’s east, forcing a Russia retreat from some previously seized territory.

Russia is attempting to formalise its annexation of parts of Ukraine by holding referendums on separation, which have been labelled a sham and illegitimate by much of the international community.

Mr Marles branded the Russian president’s threats as appalling.

“We’ve seen president Putin go there before and it is a real concern that he should be speaking in this way,” he told reporters in Canberra.

Ukraine has requested military aid from Australia in the form of further Bushmaster vehicles and artillery.

The opposition is urging the government to provide the assistance expeditiously.

Opposition leader and former defence minister Peter Dutton said Mr Marles needed to cut through any bureaucratic red tape he was facing from the Department of Defence.

“We want to get equipment, support, defence material in the hands of the Ukrainians as quickly as possible,” Mr Dutton told the Nine Network.

“This is the time for the world to stand up, to be heard, and to speak with a loud voice against these acts of aggression.”

Mr Marles said the conflict was expected to be protracted and the government would continue to work with Ukrainian officials to provide ongoing support.

Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko said there shouldn’t be any escalation in the conflict as long as Mr Putin didn’t resort to the use of weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr Myroshnychenko acknowledged the conflict would likely get worse before it improved.

“We need more (support) because this is getting difficult,” he told ABC TV.

“We need more artillery and fighting drones and more Bushmasters.”

– AAP

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