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Australia to send armored vehicles to Ukraine after request

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday that Australia will send armored Bushmaster vehicles to Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy specifically asked for them while appealing to Australian lawmakers for more help in Ukraine’s war against Russia.

Zelenskyy addressed the Australian Parliament on Thursday and asked for the Australian-made, four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Morrison told reporters the vehicles will be flown over on Boeing C-17 Globemaster transport planes. He didn’t specify how many would be sent or when.

“We’re not just sending our prayers, we are sending our guns, we’re sending our munitions, we’re sending our humanitarian aid, we’re sending all of this, our body armor, all of these things and we’re going to be sending our armored vehicles, our Bushmasters, as well,” Morrison said.

Zelenskyy has been tailoring his message to individual countries through video appeals like the one shown to legislators in the Australian Parliament. Lawmakers gave him standing ovation at the start and end of his 16-minute address.

Zelenskyy also called for tougher sanctions and for Russian vessels to be banned from international ports.

“We need more sanctions against Russia, powerful sanctions until they stop blackmailing other countries with their nuclear missiles,” Zelenskyy said through an interpreter.

Zelenskyy specifically asked for Bushmaster vehicles.

“You have very good armed personnel vehicles, Bushmasters, that could help Ukraine substantially, and other pieces of equipment,” Zelenskyy said.

While the Ukrainian capital Kyiv is 15,000 kilometers (9,300 miles) from the Australian capital Canberra, Zelenskyy said Australia was not safe from the conflict which threatened to escalate into a nuclear war.

He suggested that a Russian victory over Ukraine would embolden China to declare war on Taiwan.

“The most terrible thing is that if we don’t stop Russia now, if we don’t hold Russia accountable, then some other countries of the world who are looking forward to similar wars against their neighbors will decide that such things are possible for them as well,” Zelenskyy said.

Zelenskyy also said Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if Moscow had been punished for the 2014 downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane in Ukraine.

Two weeks ago, the Australian and Dutch governments launched a legal case against Russia at the International Civil Aviation Organization to hold Moscow accountable for its alleged role in the missile strike that killed all 298 people on MH17. Of the victims, 196 were Dutch citizens and 38 were Australian residents.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had earlier told the president that Australia would provide additional military assistance including tactical decoys, unmanned aerial and unmanned ground systems, rations and medical supplies. He later said the additional help would cost 25 million Australian dollars ($19 million).

“You have our prayers, but you also have our weapons, our humanitarian aid, our sanctions against those who seek to deny your freedom and you even have our coal,” Morrison said.

Australia has already promised or provided Ukraine with AU$91 million ($68 million) in military assistance, AU$65 million ($49 million) in humanitarian help and 70,000 metric tons (77,200 U.S. tons) of coal.

Earlier Thursday, the government announced Australia was imposing an additional 35% tariff on all imports from Russia and Belarus starting April 25.

Oil and energy imports from Russia will be banned from that date. Exports to Russia of Australian aluminum ore will also be banned.

Sanctions have been imposed on more than 500 individuals and entities in Russia and Belarus. The sanctions cover 80% of the Russian banking sector and all government entities that handle Russian sovereign debt.

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