Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said it was an “obscene perversion” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to talk about Russian soldiers acting as peacekeepers in Ukraine.
“Any suggestion that there is a legitimate basis for Russia’s actions is pure propaganda and disinformation,” Senator Payne told reporters during a visit to the Czech capital, Prague, after Russia recognized the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk as independent.
Putin signed a decree on the deployment of troops to separatist enclaves in eastern Ukraine in a move he says is aimed at maintaining peace.
“President Putin’s assertion of Russian soldiers acting as peacekeepers is indeed an obscene perversion of the noble and vital role that generations of peacekeepers have played across the world,” he said. she stated.
Senator Payne added that Australia would not hesitate to impose more sanctions if Russia escalates the situation further.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison promised on Wednesday to “step up” the response if military action continued.
Australian sanctions and travel bans will target eight members of the Russian Federation’s Security Council, while existing sanctions in place for past assaults will be extended.
Russian banks have also been targeted.
Mr Morrison said he expected further tranches of sanctions against more individuals, but remained tight-lipped about who would be targeted.
“We are going to take it step by step and I can assure you that those steps will get stronger and stronger,” he told reporters in Sydney.
Meanwhile, Russian Ambassador to Australia Alexey Pavlovsky met with the Foreign Office Secretary on Wednesday afternoon after the sanctions were announced.
Mr Morrison, who convened the cabinet’s national security committee on Wednesday, said Russia must understand the global condemnation of his decision.
“The invasion of Ukraine has indeed already started. They are acting like thugs and bullies,” he said.
“Australians always stand up to bullies and we will stand up to Russia.”
About 430 Ukrainian visa applications will move to the top of the pile and the more than 1,000 Ukrainians outside Australia who already have visas are being welcomed back, Mr Morrison said.
Up to 1,400 Australians are believed to remain in Ukraine, including 184 registered for embassy support, which is currently being run from Poland.
“Ukrainian visa holders who wish to remain in Australia beyond the validity of their current visas may apply for other visas for which they may be eligible,” a Home Office spokesperson said.
“Australia does not return individuals to situations where they face persecution or a real risk of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Mr Morrison spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart Denys Shmyhal on Wednesday evening to brief him on the sanctions.
A spokesman said Mr Morrison had told Prime Minister Shmyhal that Russia’s behavior towards Ukraine was “unacceptable, unprovoked and unjustified”.
“Prime Minister Morrison reaffirmed Australia’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” the spokesperson said.
“The Prime Minister affirmed that Australia is ready to do more, working with our partners and in response to Ukraine’s needs.”
Australia has ruled out direct military aid and supports Ukraine’s cyber capability.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese, who was briefed on the situation by intelligence agencies, said the Russian invasion was a shocking development.
‘Labour supports the government’s announcement – we believe it is important, when it comes to national security, that we express a common view on behalf of the Australian people,’ he said.
“What we see with the continued intimidation against the Ukrainian people is aggressive Russian action that undermines security in the region and even the world.”
with information from Reuters
Australian Associated Press