A Ukrainian soldier launches a drone
Moscow says Ukraine is using Australian drones to strike sites in Russia. Image by AP PHOTO
  • unrest, conflicts and war

Attack drones draw Australia into Ukraine war: Russia

Dominic Giannini September 6, 2023

Officials in Moscow have accused Ukraine of using Australian drones to attack Russian territory.

“Australian drones are actually used to strike targets in Russia,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in an online post, adding Australia was being drawn into the conflict.

Ms Zakharova accused the Australian government of “enthusiastically contributing to the anti-Russian campaign directed from Washington” while trying to hide from public opinion “the unenviable circumstances indicating that Australia is increasingly being drawn into the conflict in Ukraine”. 

In July 2022, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged to provide armoured personnel carriers, Bushmaster vehicles and drones to Ukraine during a visit to Kyiv.

In February this year – on the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – the Australian government again said it was providing drones to Ukraine to help it resist Russian forces.

“These systems provide a battlefield intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability for the Ukrainian Armed Forces as they continue to fight,” the Australian government said at the time.

Ukrainian ambassador to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko posted a link on social media platform X last week to an article in The Age that suggested Australian-made “cardboard drones” were used in a strike on the Kursk airfield inside Russia in late August.

Mr Myroshnychenko tweeted the site “was a ‘legitimate target’ for Ukraine’s armed forces … Russia uses that airport to launch military operations and send missiles into Ukraine”.

Australia has supported Ukraine with $790 million in aid, including $610 million in military equipment, since the Russian invasion on February 24, 2022.

Opposition home affairs spokesman James Paterson is calling for the government to designate the Kremlin-aligned private military Wagner Group as a terrorist organisation following moves by the UK government.

Senator Paterson says Australia needs to follow Britain, with the designation allowing it to seize assets as well as making it illegal to be a member or support the group. 

He wrote to the home affairs minister and attorney-general in May seeking an investigation into the listing. 

“The Albanese government needs to explain when and how it plans to list Wagner as a terrorist organisation to ensure Australia stands shoulder to shoulder with its allies,” he said.

A spokesman for Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the government was deeply concerned about Wagner’s actions in Ukraine and elsewhere but it was longstanding government practice to not comment on whether it is considering listing any organisations on the terrorist list. 

with Reuters