World War 3? Russia Says Australia-Bound Warships an ‘Exercise,’ More Sanctions Threatened

Australian leaders downplay Russian advance
November 15, 2014 Updated: November 19, 2014

Russia has said that warships heading toward Brisbane, Australia, are part of a routine training exercise, but experts have said they are intended as a show of the country’s military power amid G20 talks. At the same time, Western leaders have threatened to issue more sanctions if Russia doesn’t stop backing rebels in Ukraine

Sources in Australian defense agency said that four Russian warships, including the Pacific Varyag missile cruiser, according to SMH.co.au. They are heading to international waters off of Brisbane, located on Australian eastern coast.

“We’re seeing, regrettably, a great deal of Russian assertiveness right now in Ukraine,” Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, while downplaying the warships heading to Brisbane. “So it’s not really surprising.”

Australia has sent a few ships and a surveillance plane to monitor the Russian ships.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten described the move as a “stunt” and added: “As far as I am concerned, this is a distraction from families getting closure by finding out why was that plane shot down, who knows what, who was involved in that terrible atrocity.” He is referring to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July.

FILE - In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, a Russian MiG-29 plane flies during a celebration marking the Russian air force's 100th anniversary in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia. The Syrian air force has destroyed two of three jets seized and reportedly test flown over Aleppo by the Islamic State group last week, according to Omran al-Zoubi, the country's information minister who spoke on Syrian TV late Tuesday, Oct. 21. 2014. Al-Zoubi said that Syrian aircraft bombed the jets as they were landing at Jarrah airbase in the eastern countryside of Aleppo province. He said the militants were able to hide a third jet, which the Syrian air force is now searching for. (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)
FILE – In this Saturday, Aug. 11, 2012 file photo, a Russian MiG-29 plane flies during a celebration marking the Russian air force’s 100th anniversary in Zhukovsky, outside Moscow, Russia. . (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, File)

 

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, leans over to greet Russian President Vldamir Putin, center, as they join other world leaders to watch a cultural performance of indigenous dancers at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Seated next to Putin is South African President Jacob Zuma, right. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, left, leans over to greet Russian President Vldamir Putin, center, as they join other world leaders to watch a cultural performance of indigenous dancers at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia, Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. Seated next to Putin is South African President Jacob Zuma, right. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Maxim Raku, a spokesman for the Russian embassy in Canberra, said the ships are a routine exercise. “We are trying to widen our base because we have issues like global warming, scientific research in Antarctica, trade and international relations, so why not?” he said.

But ex-Chief of Army Peter Leahy said that Russia and President Vladimir Putin’s move is a message aimed at countries attending the G20.

“It’s more about Russia saying to the global leaders, don’t forget about us. We’re not just known as a European power, we’re also a Pacific power,” he told SMH.

At the same time, U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper both said that Russia needs to move its forces out of Ukraine.

“I guess I’ll shake your hand but I have only one thing to say to you: you need to get out of Ukraine,” Harper told Putin on Friday, via Reuters.

Putin did not give a positive response, Harper’s spokesperson told the news agency.

Obama said the US is set on “opposing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, which is a threat to the world, as we saw in the appalling shoot-down of MH17,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, “The present situation is not satisfying. At present the listing of further persons is on the agenda.”

Obama and European leaders are set on laying out further steps for sanctions on Sunday. 

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