Australia is sending Ukraine 20 Bushmaster armoured vehicles amid Russia’s brutal invasion of the country.
The first of the $2.45m machines will be flown to Europe from Brisbane on a RAAF C-17 Globemaster on Friday.
The Bushmasters, specifically requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during his speech to parliament last week, have been refitted and painted olive green.
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Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag and the words “United with Ukraine” have also been stenciled onto each side in a message of Australia’s solidarity with Ukrainian forces.
“Once again Ukraine has asked for our help and once again we have stepped up,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Friday.
The Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle is an armoured personnel carrier designed to carry and rapidly deploy up to 10 battle-ready soldiers.
The four-wheel-drive vehicles are designed for all environments, are blast-resistant and have previously been used by Australian forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and disaster zones at home.
It was initially announced Australia would only send four of the vehicles to Ukraine.
Friday’s announcement 20 would be flown into the warzone at a cost of more than $50 million takes Canberra’s total military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine to almost $170 million.
“Australia may be thousands of kilometres away but we’re standing side by side with Ukraine against this illegal invasion with arms, equipment, aid and even energy sources,” Morrison added of the announcement..
“Our Australian-designed and made Bushmasters are known around the world for their usefulness in a combat zone and they will help boost Ukraine’s defence against Russia’s unprovoked and illegal violence.
“This fight is important because not only are Ukrainian lives and their lands at stake, but so are the principles of freedom and the rule of law.”
As part of Canberra’s support for Ukraine, lethal and non-lethal military support has been sent and millions of dollars have been provided for humanitarian aid.
Scott Morrison banned from Russia
It comes as Russia bans Prime Minister Scott Morrison and more than 200 other Australian officials from entering Russia in response to new sanctions
Foreign Minister Marise Payne announced at a NATO meeting in Brussels on Thursday that Australia would take action against 67 oligarchs linked to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin responded on Friday by saying much of Australia’s parliament would be barred from entering the Russian Federation, effective immediately.
“Members of the Australian National Security Committee, the House of Representatives, the Senate and regional legislative assemblies are included on the ‘stop list’ of persons who are denied entry to Russia,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.