Anthony Albanese made a surprise visit to Ukraine Sunday after attending the NATO summit in Madrid.
The Australian prime minister lit a candle for civilians buried in a mass grave in the town of Bucha, near the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where Russian soldiers are accused of committing atrocities. He said Australia shared the community’s desire to seek justice for the victims.
Albanese also went to Irpin, another town scarred by war, where he spoke to reporters as he saw the devastation.
“Here we have what is clearly a residential building, another one just behind it, brutally assaulted,” he said. “This is a war crime. It is devastating. These are livelihoods and indeed lives that have been lost.”
Albanese also met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Australia is sending more military aid to Ukraine, including more than 30 additional armored vehicles and drones.
Canberra is also imposing additional sanctions and travel bans on 16 Russian government ministers and oligarchs and ending Australian imports of Russian gold.
Michelle Grattan, chief political correspondent for The Conversation, an online news service, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that Prime Minister Albanese’s visit to Ukraine was significant.
“I think it is very important visit because it does underline the solidarity that Australia is showing in this situation, terrible situation.” said Grattan. “I think that people will welcome this new commitment that the prime minister has made of military equipment.”
The Australian government is also considering reopening its embassy in Ukraine.
Albanese joins a long list of world leaders who have visited the country since the Russian invasion began in February.
He entered Ukraine from Poland, traveling on an armored train. He was shadowed by Ukrainian special forces. Several thousand Ukrainian refugees have been granted temporary asylum in Australia.