Interview with Laura Jays, Sky News Australia

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Russian invasion of Ukraine.
25 February 2022

Laura Jayes:

Well, our Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has been in Europe. She’s on her way home and she joins us live from Laos. Marise Payne, thanks so much for your time. Are we seeing the start of World War III?

Marise Payne:

Laura, there’s no question that this is a very serious act of aggression, the worst we’ve seen in Europe in many decades, and there is no question that Russia has chosen war. Everything we’re doing with our partners, particularly in support of the United States and of NATO, we’re doing that designed to ensure that it doesn’t escalate to the kind of thing that you are talking about. What the international community is doing, and I think the unity in the international community here is important, is to impose costs such that Russia does not continue to escalate, but there is no question that this is a wholesale breach of international law by Russia and the actions that we take have to be a clear signal to them and to any other authoritarian state that there are heavy costs for this sort of behaviour.

Laura Jayes:

It is escalating by the hour. We have reports that Russia is potentially just hours away from seizing the capital. If that happens, is that a moment of no return?

Marise Payne:

Laura, the situation is highly fluid. I’ve just been listening to your reporting there and watching the international reports as well. The Ukrainian Government, the President, my colleague the Foreign Minister, have indicated that Ukraine will continue to fight for their country, as you would expect. And we are strongly supporting NATO, the European Union, US, UK, in their actions. We will watch closely and work with counterparts to ensure that we provide whatever support we can, and we communicate that information to Australia, but I think it is difficult to speculate at this stage.

Laura Jayes:

Will Putin stop at Ukraine? What does he want?

Marise Payne:

He clearly wants to reverse history. He wants to force Ukraine back under authoritarian control, but Ukraine has chosen a different path, has chosen a path of democracy and freedom. He has invaded on a totally false pretext, using disinformation and propaganda. So, all that we are doing in support of counterparts’ actions, both in sanctions and in our public statements, is about calling upon Russia to cease these illegal, unjustified and unprovoked actions immediately.

Laura Jayes:

He has completely ignored the west it would seem up until now so how do you stop him?

Marise Payne:

Well, there are further sanctions being planned across the international system. Australia, as you know, has so far implemented two tranches of sanctions the first announced on Wednesday, the second yesterday, and we are working on further tranches as well, as is the international community. The US has announced significant steps overnight here and we will be working closely with them to see where else Australia can apply pressure. We have certainly targeted sanctions on eight members of their Security Council, targeted financial institutions, on several banks. And, Laura, we have existing restrictions on Australians investing, for example, in the state development bank, VEB. These are sanctions which have been in place for some time now. We have also extended our existing sanctions that apply to Crimea, Sevastopol, to Donetsk and to Luhansk. The second tranche is certain sanctions on individuals and on entities involved in the development and sale of military technology and weapons. But what is important is that this unity continues; is that the global community stays strong and solid as they have been, particularly in relation to these economic sanctions, which will limit, for example, Russia’s access to US dollars, to euros and pounds and yen, G7 leaders have agreed to that. The US leaders have frozen Russian assets in the US. They will cut off further banks. So, these are very important steps.

Laura Jayes:

They are, and I understand that I you get maximum impact when we move together with our allies, but, frankly, what are we waiting for? What would be the trigger point to take this maximum effect and these maximum sanctions? And are you talking about completely freezing Russian assets and Russian money and perhaps deportation?

Marise Payne:

Well, the steps that I’ve been talking about there, we have already taken. The UK, the US, the G7 have the announced steps that I’ve just been through. The UK, for example, has included the freezing the assets for all major Russian banks, limiting the cash held by Russian nationals in UK banks. They’ve sanctioned more than 100 individuals and entities. We are also moving to sanction around 300 members of the Duma, the Russian Parliament, as well. So, it’s not a case of waiting. These are steps that the international community is taking in response to the Russian aggression.

Laura Jayes:

Is Russian money so ingrained in British and US society that sanctions will not only serve to hurt the billionaires but have flow‑on effects to local Brits, local Americans, be it, you know, I’m thinking of the Chelsea Football Club owned by Roman Abramovich and to a very small extent here in Australia the Russian interests in alumina?

Marise Payne:

These are steps that we are taking because we know they will have an impact, because we have worked with counterparts and like‑mindeds over recent weeks to identify these options where we know that they will have an impact. And that is the pathway open to the international community and why we have determined to do this. It is important, as you said and as I have said earlier, that this unity continues, that we work together as responsible nations to ensure that the costs we apply to Russia are as significant as they can be. There’s, frankly, no alternative. The alternative is that there are no penalties or costs and that is completely unacceptable.

Laura Jayes:

Is the goal to isolate Russia? That seems clear, to be honest. But is it even possible if China is tacitly standing by Vladimir Putin?

Marise Payne:

Well, ultimately China is responsible for its own approach and its own statements, but, having said that, I understand they have observed that Russia has legitimate security concerns. This is not a statement that we can understand or accept. Self‑evidently, there are no reasonable concerns that justify Russia’s actions. This is a false pretext on which Putin has indicated he has used to invade. Permanent members of the UN Security Council have a responsibility to call Russia out and to identify this action as an aggressive action that is totally unfounded.

Laura Jayes:

Should we in Australia be worried about China’s silence here?

Marise Payne:

Ultimately, these are matters for China. Australia will stand in our own context, in our own voice and deliver our own messages, and our messages are absolutely clear: We have condemned this utterly and said there is no justification whatsoever. Other countries will make their own decisions, but to be clear, any suggestion – and we have seen disinformation suggesting that the US and the west is to blame. Any suggestion of that nature is propaganda. It is disinformation. The only country to blame for this action, for this invasion of the Ukraine is Russia.

Laura Jayes:

Foreign Minister Marise Payne, really appreciate your time this morning. Safe travels.

Marise Payne:

Thank you very much, Laura.

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