‘Empower Ukraine’: Kyiv seeks pilot training from Australia in new military aid package

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Hanoi: The Australian government is set to unveil a new military aid package to Ukraine, whose defence minister has proposed that Australia train its pilots and help it defend itself from Russian drone attacks.

Australia has injected more than $500 million into Kyiv’s resistance effort since Vladimir Putin’s invasion in February last year.

Defence Minister Richard Marles speaks with Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov.Credit: @RichardMarlesMP/Twitter

The latest round of assistance, the first to be announced since February, was flagged by Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov after Friday’s meeting (AEST) with Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore.

“We discussed Ukraine’s priorities for strengthening defence capabilities. Another package of security assistance will be announced by the [Australian] government in July,” said Reznikov, who invited Marles to visit Ukraine.

“I asked our Australian friends to consider the possibility of training Ukrainian pilots, providing medical evacuation vehicles and means of electronic warfare against drones.

“I was moved by my colleague’s remarks of admiration for Ukraine’s extraordinary bravery which inspires so many people.”

Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles.Credit: AP

The July timing would coincide with the NATO Summit in Lithuania, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will attend as a member of the Asia-Pacific Four group alongside leaders from Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Australia has repeatedly slammed Moscow for its illegal violation of Ukrainian sovereignty, and the deadly conflict it triggered.

Albanese took renewed aim at Russia during his keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue – the peak defence conference in Asia – by calling out its “reprehensible threats to use nuclear force”.

The government has backed Ukraine since the war began, sending Kyiv 90 Bushmaster armoured personnel carriers, as well as other armoured troop carriers and military equipment such as drones and ammunition.

An RAAF pilot on a training exercise.Credit: RAAF

A contingent of Australian soldiers have also helped train Ukrainian army recruits in the UK since January.

Ukrainian officials have previously requested Australia also send Victorian-manufactured Hawkei light-armoured patrol vehicles.

A spokesperson for Marles was contacted for comment about the Australian announcement foreshadowed by Reznikov.

On Twitter, Marles wrote: “We continue to work with our partners to empower Ukraine to resolve this conflict on its own terms.

“We will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

The emergence of a pending new Australian package for Ukraine comes as the besieged nation’s armed forces prepare to launch a counteroffensive in a bid to force Russian troops out of the one-fifth of its territory it has illegally occupied.

“This is not a movie,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Friday. “It is hard to say how you’ll see the counteroffensive. The main point here is for Russia to see it.

“And not just see but feel it. Especially, we speak about the troops that have occupied our territories.

Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko in front of one of the Bushmasters gifted to Ukraine. Credit: Getty

“De-occupation of our territories: this is the result of our counteroffensive. When you see this, you’ll understand that it has started.”

Zelensky’s plans align with the stance of the United States.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a speech in Finland on Friday that Washington and its allies should not endorse any negotiations for a cease fire along the current lines because of their infringement on Ukrainian sovereignty, AP reported.

“We believe the prerequisite for meaningful diplomacy and real peace is a stronger Ukraine, capable of deterring and defending against any future aggression,” Blinken said.

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