The Australian embassy in Kyiv has still not reopened

Australian Ambassador Bruce Edwards has been stationed in Poland since February 2022.

Australian Ambassador Bruce Edwards has been stationed in Poland since February 2022.Credit:DFAT

“No one seems willing to take the lead on this issue, and internationally our partners will look at us with some amusement that we are providing military assistance but are unwilling to go back and show our support,” they said.

Another department source said: “The whole situation is just embarrassing, we’re damaging our reputation.”

Ambassador of Ukraine to Australia Vasyl Myroshnychenko said he believes Australia should send its ambassador back to Kyiv because Canberra is missing out on direct access to sensitive briefings and information.

“There are meetings where only the ambassadors of the five-eyes countries are invited – you have to be physically present,” he said.

“It’s about the meetings you attend, access to the information you get and your ability to speak to American, British and Canadian ambassadors.”

He said the relationship between Australia and Ukraine has reached a new level in the last 12 months, but “whatever I do [in Australia] must be reflected and mirrored in Ukraine”.

“Australia, I think, is kind of at a disadvantage now that it doesn’t have an ambassador there,” he said.

“It’s just basic trade and diplomacy. They didn’t have an ambassador [in Kyiv] for 12 months and so much has happened in that time that I think it would be good for him to go back.”

Other foreign diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Australia had a reputation for being overly risk-averse. Australia was the first of its key allies to close its embassy in Afghanistan in 2021, which angered some officials at Australia’s Secret Service, the foreign spy agency, because it meant they lost their presence on the ground to gather crucial intelligence.

The legal notice may also reveal that the former coalition government turned down an invitation from the British government to return alongside its ambassador Melinda Simmons and be stationed at the British mission last May – ahead of almost every other western nation.


Simmons, who received a Damehood in the King’s New Year Honors for her contribution to foreign policy, said at the time: “Coming back is the confidence that Kiev is a place where you can work and you can be.”

Edwards referred media inquiries about his situation to the department.

On Thursday, Adams said her overall risk assessment hadn’t changed in recent months and that it was still too dangerous to send embassy staff back to Kyiv.

“The security situation in Ukraine and especially in Kiev remains complex [and] challenging — it hasn’t improved,” she said at a Senate hearing.

“Just last week, Russian missiles again targeted Kiev, forcing Ukrainians once again to take refuge in makeshift shelters, including subway shelters.”

The Australian embassy was housed alongside the Canadian embassy, ​​which reopened in the middle of last year.

Adams said Canada is different from Australia because it is a member of NATO and “makes its own decisions – just like us”.

“We operate our embassy outside of Poland, and very satisfactorily. We work very effectively with partners,” she said.

While Adams noted the ministry was following its own advice on its no-travel warnings for Ukraine, the Australian government continues to maintain a diplomatic presence in several no-travel destinations – including Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Russia and, until 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Liberal Senator David Van – who traveled to Ukraine in August, including to Kiev and to frontline positions in the east – said Adams could not give any reason why Australian diplomats could not return to the embassy in Kiev when the US, Britain and Canada have all returned.

“The department operates manned embassies in Russia, Iran, Iraq and Myanmar, all with ‘do not travel’ warnings, and has operated manned embassies in active war zones such as Afghanistan and Baghdad,” Van said.

“It is vital that we have a staffed embassy in the country so that we can get the best assessment of what is happening on the ground.

“How are we supposed to learn from the war and be prepared for future conflicts if we only see what happens on TV?”


The Australian embassy in Ukraine was officially opened in November 2014 for an initial period of 12 months following the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. Edwards, who previously served as Deputy Head of Mission in Port of Spain and Beirut as well as in Kabul overseas, was appointed to the post in October 2020. Previously, he worked in Kiev as the mission’s chargé d’affaires.

Asked earlier this month whether Australia would reopen its embassy, ​​Secretary of State Penny Wong said the government had been dealing with “a number of security issues” and the decision at the moment was to continue providing aid from Poland.

“Of course we will continue to look into this, but obviously the safety of Australian staff is the priority that we must apply in making this decision.”

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Callan Tansill

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