Question Time - Ukraine Situation: Australia imposes sanctions

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

19 March 2014

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Curtin—Minister for Foreign Affairs) (14:45):  I thank the member for La Trobe for his question. I note his deep interest in this issue. I can confirm to the House that, overnight, Russian President Vladimir Putin took action to annex Crimea. Today I announce the Australian government will impose targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against those who have been instrumental in the Russian threat to Ukraine's sovereignty. The actions taken by Russia are a clear violation of international rules prohibiting the use of force and protecting the territorial integrity of states. International law does not allow one state to steal the territory of another on the basis of a referendum that cannot be considered free or fair. The referendum carried out in Crimea on 16 March was not authorised by Ukraine and was carried out while Russian forces were, effectively, in control of the territory. It cannot form the legitimate basis of any alteration to the status of Crimea.

I condemn in the strongest possible terms the use of violence against Ukraine and its citizens. The situation in Ukraine remains serious, with the potential for military confrontation. The fatal attack on a Ukrainian serviceman in Crimea is to be deplored and underlines the volatility of the crisis that Russia is fuelling.

Australia has stood with the international community in condemning Russia's actions in Crimea. We joined with 12 other nations in the United Nations Security Council voting on a resolution that declared the referendum could have no validity. No member opposed this resolution, except Russia. Australia's response to Russia's actions is aligned with the action taken by the EU, the United States and Canada, who have also implemented a number of targeted sanctions and travel bans. Measures have been taken in close coordination with our friends and allies, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.

Overnight, I spoke with foreign secretary William Hague, who acknowledged Australia's support in his speech to the House of Commons last night. I have also spoken with the interim Ukrainian foreign minister. Australia has taken these actions in solidarity and support for a rules based international order. This is in our core national interest to promote peace, stability and security. I reaffirm in unequivocal terms Australia's support for Ukraine's territorial integrity. I continue to urge Russia to abide by its international obligations and behave as a responsible member of the international community. I urge Russia to return to constructive diplomatic dialogue.

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