Australia to Open Embassy in Ukraine as Tony Abbott Considers 'Non-Lethal' Military Assistance

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By Reissa Su | September 3, 2014 5:45 PM EST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has announced the government's plan of opening an embassy in Ukraine and considering the deployment of military troops aid the ongoing investigation of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 tragedy.

REUTERS/Justin Tallis/Pool
Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (R) walks with Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in central London August 12, 2014.

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Mr Abbott told Parliament that the interim embassy will assist the nine investigators of the Australian Federal Police in Ukraine. He said the government will be considering "non-lethal military assistance" and short-term humanitarian aid.

The prime minister described the relationship between Ukraine and Australia as "close" despite their geographical distance. He said both countries have shared the responsibility in responding to the MH17 crash. According to reports, Russian-backed rebels were believed to be responsible for the downing of the plane by shooting a surface to air missile. The tragedy has killed 37 Australian passengers.

The Australian government is also planning to provide civil and military capacity-building assistance to Ukraine. Mr Abbott said Australia has always been grateful to Ukraine in July for its role in recovering the bodies of MH17 victims near a conflict-ridden area.

The prime minister said Australia wants to repay Ukraine for its support and help the country now that Russia has invaded it. Mr Abbott vowed Australia will do what it can for its friends while maintaining the rule of law.

On the issue of Australian uranium still being sold to Russia, Mr Abbott has confirmed the suspension following reports of proposing more sanctions to be imposed on Moscow.

Meanwhile, Ukraine is shifting its military strategy to prepare for a widening invasion of Russian troops. According to reports, Ukraine Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey declared that the military troops will stop targeting pro-Russian separatists in the east and move to a defensive strategy to prevent a "full-scale invasion of Russian troops.

NATO leaders are set to approve a reserve military unit in the event of a crisis. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen revealed the approved force can "strike hard if needed."

With the support of NATO and the West, Kiev has accused Russia of sending more than 1,000 troops to fight alongside the separatists. This has become a major blow to Ukrainian forces that were close to retaking the rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Justin Tallis/Pool / )
Britain's Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond (R) walks with Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in central London August 12, 2014.
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