An Australian Army M1A1 Abrams at Exercise Iron Warrior 23 in November 2023. (Cpl. Michael Rogers, ADF)

SYDNEY— In an emotional presentation today in front of key Australian defense officials, the Ukrainian ambassador and the head of an organization representing Ukrainians across Australia appealed for tanks, Taipan helicopters, money and a change in how Australia considers Ukrainian aid.

Ukraine is beginning to lose some ground to the better armed and larger forces of Russia. Casualties are high, the manpower pool is not growing and the US Congress has so far refused to approve the single biggest tranche of international help for Ukraine.

“Yes, at this rate we can slowly keep going. But is that acceptable? For how many years should this war drag on?” Ukrainian ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko said at Canberra’s National Press Club, to an audience that included Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles, Shadow Defense Minister Andrew Hastie and national defense press. “We need more, more of everything. We need enough to end this war and to defeat Russia’s invasion. ‘Hanging on’ is not enough.”

Kateryna Argyrou, the co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations (AFUO), a non-governmental organization, pushed for non-material aid as well. (To underline how important the event was, Argyrou, visibly pregnant, noted she had left medically-ordered bedrest in Sydney to travel to Canberra.)

Argyrou argued it would be better for Ukraine to make its own risk assessments, rather than Australia’s Defense Department. With the defense minister, who has received criticism for doing too little to bolster Australia’s military — let alone Ukraine’s — sitting in the audience, she made her point: “From my last two years of work advocating for more military aid for Ukraine, it is evident that the biggest hand brake is hesitancy in the Department of Defense.”

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She urged that Australia adopt what she called “a whole of government” approach to aid for Ukraine. “Please consider those requests because they are desperately needed and they literally go towards saving lives,” Argyrou said.

She said the Ukrainian community in Australia— more than 55,000 strong — would do its best to raise money to provide whatever additional assistance might be needed to transport any equipment donated by Australia or repair it.

By the end of 2023 Australia had donated $910 million in overall assistance to Ukraine, of which $730 million counted as “military support,” according to a government factsheet.

The Ukrainian ambassador, prodded Marles directly, noting that the defense minister had said he’d like to visit Ukraine.

“I know that he’s interested in doing that. He told me that a long time ago, and we hope that there will be an opportunity to visit the country,” Myroshnychenko said as Marles watched.

Australia, when it decided to decommission its fleet of 43 Taipan helicopters after a fatal crash, was asked by Ukraine to donate the helicopters. Australia said instead it would strip them and bury them, arguing it was in the interests of the taxpayer and that no country had indicated it would buy them. In addition to the Taipans, Ukraine has made its interest in obtaining Australia’s aging Abrams tanks clear, with the ambassador reiterating the hope today they will get the country’s entire fleet of M1A1 tanks, which are due to be replaced.