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Ukraine thinks we just don't care after aid dries up, even our old choppers

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The Russian invasion has fallen off Australia’s radar, the Ukrainian diaspora says, as the government opts to bury military equipment that could have bolstered Kiev’s forces.

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A year ago, Australia was the top non-NATO contributor of support to Ukraine, but two years after Russia first invaded the eastern European country, it has dropped to sixth.

The federal government has also decided not to send its unwanted Taipan helicopters, preferring to strip them for spare parts before burying them.

The move has garnered outrage from the local Ukrainian community with co-chair of the Australian Federation Ukrainian Organisations Stefan Romaniw calling on the government to reverse its decision.

“(The helicopters) would significantly boost Ukraine’s air power, which will help defend freedom and democracy and save lives,” he said.

“(But) Australia now risks simply standing by instead of standing up for what’s right.”

Defence Industry Minister Pat Conroy defended the government’s decision.

He said none of the aircraft were in flying condition, the fleet had been grounded for three months before Ukraine made its request and repairs would have required a significant investment in time, resources and taxpayer funds.

Safety questions also remained after a Taipan crash claimed the lives of four Australian defence personnel in July.

Retired Major General Fergus McLachlan agreed the cost of making the choppers airworthy would be prohibitive, but he said the government had acted “in a fair bit of haste”.

“This is over a billion dollars worth of our tax money in a capability that, while it disappointed, was not an unsafe aircraft,” he told ABC radio on Friday.

He said they were “very capable helicopters”, with at least 12 countries are still flying them, though he would not recommend them for the Ukrainian effort.

“All of the user nations in NATO are affluent nations with all of the resources needed to maintain and operate a complex helicopter, (but they) struggle to get this aircraft in the air reliably,” he said.

“For an army at war, who needs high availability, high reliability, in my opinion, this is not the aircraft that they needed.”

But Mr Romaniw said the 45 Taipans could have replaced the Ukrainian helicopters that had gone missing since the start of Russia’s offensive.

“Words won’t help us win this war,” he said.

The government has provided $910 million worth of support to Ukraine, including $730 million of military assistance.

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