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Scott Morrison vows to punish Russian ‘thugs’ as Ukraine invasion begins

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced immediate sanctions on Russia saying “the invasion of Ukraine" has already begun.

The Prime Minister told reporters on Wednesday Australia will be joining the US, UK, the EU and Canada in pushing back against Russia's aggression towards Ukraine.

"They're behaving like thugs and bullies, and they should be called out as thugs and bullies," Mr Morrison said.

"Australians always stand up to bullies and we will be standing up to Russia."

Scott Morrison told reporters on Wednesday he vows to punish Russian ‘thugs’ as the Ukraine invasion begins.
Scott Morrison told reporters he vows to punish Russian ‘thugs’ as the Ukraine invasion begins. Source: AAP (AAPIMAGE)

Mr Morrison said Russia is at "peak readiness" to complete a "full-scale invasion", which is likely to occur within the next 24 hours.

“And there are even reports already of shelling and things of that nature, which could indicate that it has already begun,’’ he said.

"This invasion is unjustified, it's unwarranted, it's unprovoked and it's unacceptable."

Mr Morrison said there must be consequences for Russia’s actions.

"Those who perpetrate them, support those who perpetrate them, those who benefit from all of this must be targeted, isolated and there must be consequences for this type of behaviour," he said.

"That should send a very strong message to any other bullies and thugs out there that this type of behaviour is not acceptable."

PM calls for China to impose sanctions on Russia

Mr Morrison implored China to follow the response of Australia and its allies.

"I hope they join us," Mr Morrison told reporters.

"That's the message that I'm sending and have been sending for some time and I have noted that China's language in the course of the past week has improved.

"But I'd welcome them going the full distance."

Russian and Belarusian forces take part in a military training exercise in Gomel, Belarus.
Russian and Belarusian forces take part in a military training exercise in Gomel, Belarus over the weekend. Source: AAP (Sipa USA)

Mr Morrison said 430 Ukrainian visa applications will jump to the top of the pile and the more than 1000 Ukrainians outside of Australia who already have visas are being welcomed back.

It is believed up to 1400 Australians remain in Ukraine, with 184 registered for embassy support, which is currently being run out of Poland.

What are sanctions?

According to the government website, sanctions are measures not involving the use of armed force that are imposed in situations of international concern.

The most common sanctions measures are:

  • Restrictions on trade in goods and services

  • Restrictions on engaging in commercial activities

  • Targeted financial sanctions (including asset freezes) on designated persons and entities

  • Travel bans on certain persons

What sanctions has Australia placed on Russia?

Mr Morrison said the Australian Government will immediately begin placing sanctions on Russian individuals, including travel bans and targeted financial sanctions.

The Prime Minister said "we have no quarrel with the people of Russia", adding "this is the actions of a Russian government" and is not what the Russian people "stand for".

The sanctions regime will follow the United States and United Kingdom —which are targeting Russian billionaires and financial institutions — and include sanctions on transport, energy, telecommunications, oil, gas and minerals.

"These sanctions will significantly expand the scope of persons, and I stress, entities that Australia can list for targeted financial sanctions and travel bans," Mr Morrison said.

"So that gives us a broad coverage to ensure that we can target those who are particularly involved in these actions and who are aiding and abetting this invasion."

Sanctions have been placed on eight members of Russia's National Security Council, although that could be expanded.

Australia will place sanctions on five Russian banks named by the United States earlier – Rossiya, IS Bank, General Bank, Promsvyazbank and the Black Sea Bank.

The Prime Minister said the sanctions announced today were the first step, adding they are imposed by countries all around the world, and "will just keep stepping up".

"I expect subsequent tranches of sanctions — this is only the start of this process," he said.

with AAP

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