Although Australia is a country far removed from any conflict in Europe, in a world where China is the main source of risk, the war in Ukraine has not gone unnoticed and is very much on the agenda. Ukraine’s Ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Miroshnychenko, told the New Voice of Ukraine what exactly Australians are saying, what their attitude is, and how their country is helping the Ukrainian army.
NV: How do Australians see the war in Ukraine?
Miroshnychenko: The Australians perceive the war in Ukraine as a battle between David and Goliath, and they are on David's side and take it very close to heart. For example, three weeks ago I met a local billionaire, ChrisGarnaut, who decided to raise money for Ukraine. I had a conversation with him, and he told me that I was the first Ukrainian he met and spoke to in his life, and added that he donated his own 100,000 Australian dollars and in a month will collect about 2 million more from his friends.
So I asked him what he is doing this for, what motivates him, as he has never even seen a Ukrainian. He said that since childhood he has hated bullies who allow themselves to offend the weak, and he is always on the side of truth.
He was so immersed in the question of Ukraine that even in the official correspondence of his company, in the final sign off, he ordered to note that their company supports the brave Ukrainian people. And this is just one of many examples.
Local people live by Christian values and this also intensifies sympathy for Ukrainians. This is especially noticeable at charity marathons in schools and city parks, where aid is collected for Ukrainians. This sincerity often moves me to tears.
The fact that the war in Ukraine is felt very acutely can be seen in the media, in the reactions of public figures, local governments, and local parliaments. All this is very much alive. Australia is in a military alliance with the United States and the United Kingdom. To a large extent, Australians depend on U.S. military aid, are historically linked to the U.K., look closely at what their partners are doing, and in light of this get involved them-selves.
But historical parallels are also important. At the end of April, Australia celebrates Anzac Day, a day of honoring the combined forces of Australia and New Zealand, when the victims of the First and Second World Wars among the military of the two countries are commemorated. During the First World War, when Australia's sovereignty was still limited, the so-called Battle of Gallipoli took place, which was very important for the course of the whole war and the fate of Australia as well. In this battle in Turkey, Australian and New Zealand troops suffered a crushing defeat, and many were killed. It is believed that this tragedy prompted Australia to seek its statehood — because of the fate of the army, because of losses, because of pain. Being here, I often cite the example that the war in Ukraine in its eighth year — unfortunately due to pain and loss — strengthens our identity and understanding of who we are, as it once strengthened Australia's self-determination.
NV: What is Russia for Australia in the modern perception? Is the Russo-Ukrainian conflict changing the balance in the region to which Australia belongs?
Miroshnychenko: As for the relations between Australia and Russia, they are quite limited. Australia sold aluminum, alumina, and bauxite to Russia and bought some oil. Now, of course, they have abandoned it, imposed 35% tariffs on products from Russia and Belarus, and very quickly introduced all sanctions. It was not difficult for them.
However, China is important to Australia. It can now easily become a beneficiary of the war, despite being a source of threat and warning to Australia for a long time. In fact, since 2016, there has been a trade war be-tween Australia and China. China has closed the market for all Australian products. The fact that the Solomon Islands recently signed a secret agreement to build a large Chinese military base on the islands negatively impacts their relations, as it is quite close to Australia and is also a cause for concern. Therefore, there are many alliances in the region to balance it, one of which is the Quad, a security dialogue involving Australia, Japan, India, and the United States aimed at curbing China's appetites.
NV: Australia is helping Ukraine today with weapons. What exactly is this help?
Miroshnychenko: First, we must understand that Australia has its own experienced armed forces that have participated in military operations in Iraq and other hotspots. Today, the Australian military in the U.K. is train-ing the Ukrainian military. The Australians are also supplying weapons to Ukraine, now in the amount of about $225 million. They supply armored vehicles: some 40 Bushmasters [Australian armored personnel carriers] are already working on the Ukrainian front, fourteen M113 armored personnel carriers, they also provided seven howitzers, the ammunition for them, have purchased anti-tank weapons for Ukraine, drones and reconnaissance UAVs, as well as nuclear security equipment, and a lot of humanitarian aid.
NV: What does the Ukrainian diaspora in Australia look like today and is it helping Ukraine?
Miroshnychenko: There are about 40,000 Ukrainians who belong to the Ukrainian diaspora, and there is even a federation that unites various Ukrainian unions. This is an old diaspora, the meaning of which has long been to be preserved for the revival of Ukraine's independence. 30 years ago, the goal was lost as the country did emerge, but the war, especially the last three months, has mobilized the diaspora again. They put pressure on companies that work with Russia, write to local MPs and hold rallies like everywhere else, because the war has reignited everyone.
Some diaspora leaders in certain cities belonging to the old waves of the diaspora do not accept more energetic modern diasporas, and the issue we are working on now is to expand the diaspora and involve those who are losing touch with the country, to expand social capital.
NV: What is Australia's refugee policy like today?
Miroshnychenko: For now, Australia remains an open country for Ukrainian refugees. The Australian government has issued about 7,500 visas, and about 3,500 people came. Visas are now given to everyone, there are no quotas. Every Ukrainian who now applies for a visa, often a tourist visa, gets it very quickly and can enter, and as soon as they arrive, acquire refugee status in Australia. The level of support for Ukrainians in Australia is now unprecedented, and quite a few people did come from Ukraine: there are about 3 million Ukrainians in Poland, but only about 3,000 came to Australia, and the country is quite rich, every city is fundraising for Ukraine. People are provided with housing, paid benefits, given psychological assistance, and helped with the registration of children in kindergartens and schools. Australia is far away, but at the same time very close to the Ukrainian disaster.