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Australian Ukraine body calls for action on Russia

Date

Beau Donelly

Bishop Peter Stasiuk and members of the Ukrainian community at Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in North Melbourne.

Bishop Peter Stasiuk and members of the Ukrainian community at Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral in North Melbourne. Photo: Angela Wylie

Russian officials should be banned from entering Australia in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin to pull armed troops out of Crimea, the peak body for Australian-Ukrainians says.

Stefan Romaniw, chairman of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, said the government should impose sanctions against Russia to send a message it opposes the military occupation in Ukraine.

''The government should … consider things like economic sanctions,'' he said. ''Start with high-level dignitaries from Russia, any high-ranking Putin official, they should not be let into Australia. Tell them they're not welcome.''

Mr Romaniw, who recently returned from Ukraine, said there was ''genuine concern'' among the 40,000-strong Australia-Ukrainian community about the prospect of the stand-off escalating to war.

''If you're dealing with rational people it's one thing [but] nobody knows what Putin will do next,'' he said. ''It's that unpredictability that makes it very dangerous.''

Melbourne's Ukrainian community is preparing to protest in the city on Tuesday night against Russia seizing control of Crimea.

''This is an invasion,'' Liana Slipetsky, of the Association of Ukrainians in Victoria, said. ''We're absolutely horrified and appalled. Ukrainians have gone from being hopeful to very, very upset.''

Ms Slipetsky said the unprovoked military action, less than two weeks after dozens of protesters were shot dead in Kiev, ''threatened Ukraine's freedom''.

''People are saying that this is war,'' she said. ''I don't even want to utter these words, but it looks like there could be all-out war.''

Professor Marko Pavlyshyn, convener of Ukrainian studies at Monash University, questioned Ukraine's ability for restraint.''There is a sense that military preparedness is important, but at the same time there seems to be an overwhelming understanding that restraining and avoidance of any provocation is the first priority. How long that can continue is difficult to guess.''

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