Australia to match EU on Russia sanctions: PM

Australia will toughen its sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine so they match those of the European Union, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday.

AFP| Updated: Sep 01, 2014, 12:04 PM IST

Sydney: Australia will toughen its sanctions against Russia over the crisis in Ukraine so they match those of the European Union, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday.

Australia already has some sanctions against Russia, but Abbott said these would be tightened as a result of Moscow`s persistent and deliberate violation of its neighbour`s sovereignty.

"Australia will lift its sanctions against Russia to the level of the European Union," Abbott told parliament in Canberra.

"There will be no new arms exports, there will be no new access by Russian state-owned banks to the Australian capital market, there will be no new exports for use in the oil and gas industry, there will be no new trade or investment in the Crimea.

"And there will be further targeted financial sanctions and travel bans against specific individuals."

The European Union and the United States in March slapped tough sanctions on Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis, including Moscow`s annexation of Crimea.

On Sunday the EU gave Moscow one week to curb its support for rebels in eastern Ukraine or face a fresh wave of penalties as it warned the escalating crisis was putting all of Europe at risk.

Australia has taken a particular interest in the conflict after 38 of its citizens and nationals died when Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 on board.

Abbott said Russia had been running a proxy campaign to destabilise Ukraine in "clear breach and defiance of international law" for months and was openly violating Ukraine`s sovereignty.

The prime minister said NATO had reported that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers were operating openly inside Ukraine where the conflict has so far cost the lives of some 2,500 people.

"Let`s be clear about what`s happening here -- Russia started it and Russia must take responsibility for this loss of life," Abbott said.

"And now... Russia quite brazenly is trying to break the eastern Ukraine away from Ukraine itself.

"If Russian troops remain in Ukraine, if Russia persists in its attempt to break up a neighbouring country that has done it no harm, it risks becoming an international pariah."

In a statement, Abbott said the tightened sanctions were being coordinated with partners in the United States, Canada and the EU and the government would not rule out further action in the future.