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Australia, NZ demand Russia envoys explain Ukraine

March 3, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — The Russian ambassadors stationed in Australia and New Zealand were each summoned by their host countries Monday to face a grilling about Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Russian Ambassador Vladimir Morozov was told “in no uncertain terms” about Australia’s concerns during a meeting with an official.

“Russia should back off, it should withdraw its forces from the Ukraine and people of the Ukraine ought to be able to determine their future themselves,” Abbot told parliament during question time.

Abbott said Trade Minister Andrew Robb had cancelled a planned visit to Russia in light of the developments.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully said Russian Ambassador Valery Tereshchenko was summoned to meet a top New Zealand official Monday.

“New Zealand is deeply alarmed at the escalation of tensions in Ukraine over recent days and we condemn the breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” McCully said.

McCully called on Russia “to take steps to reduce tensions and to engage in consultations.”

In an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop urged Ukraine’s new government to continue its restraint in the face of provocation, adding she was concerned to learn a request from Ukraine for urgent talks with Russia had been knocked back.

Asked if her government was considering expelling the Russian envoy, Bishop replied: “Well, first thing’s first.”

Bishop said that Australia made clear its unequivocal support for Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and that the use of force was “completely unacceptable.”

The Australian government has advised it citizens not to travel to Ukraine.

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