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Ukraine is intensifying its campaign for the Albanese government to send a batch of Australian-made mobility vehicles to the front lines of its war with Russia by enlisting its 2023 Eurovision finalists to make the case for more assistance.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is expected to announce a joint package of military assistance for Ukraine with the United States during President Joe Biden’s visit to Australia next week, but it will not include the Hawkei vehicles Ukraine has been requesting for eight months.
In a video uploaded to social media by Ukraine’s Ministry of Defence on Tuesday, popular electronic music duo Tvorchi urges Australia to send the four-wheel drives to Ukraine as it prepares for a crucial counteroffensive against Russia.
The Defence Ministry last month uploaded a similar video set to a soundtrack of AC/DC’s Back in Black that described the Hawkei as Ukrainian soldiers’ “new crush”.
The patrol vehicles, which have been plagued by braking issues during their development, were specially designed and manufactured for the Australian Defence Force at defence contractor Thales’ facility in Bendigo, Victoria.
“Your Bushmasters have been helping our defenders on the front line and we know that you have something to help our defenders called Hawkeis,” the band’s lead singer, Jeffery Kenny, says in the video. “We would love a little more help.”
Tvorchi represented Ukraine at last week’s Eurovision song contest in Liverpool, England, finishing sixth with its anthem Heart of Steel.
The song features in the Ministry of Defence video, the latest step in an increasingly forceful “Free the Hawkei” campaign that has included rallies in capital cities across Australia and a billboard advertisement near Canberra airport.
The campaign is modelled on the successful “Free the Leopards” movement that eventually convinced Germany to send its highly regarded Leopard tanks to the battlefield.
The Australian Army has privately advised the government that the vehicles cannot be sent to Ukraine because a braking fault means they have not reached full operational capability.
Eurovision finalists Tvorchi pleading for Australia to send Hawkei armoured vehicles to Ukraine.Credit: Twitter
The army has said the number of parts required to sustain the vehicles in Ukraine would make the entire Australian fleet unusable.
“We would have to move the entire supply chain to Ukraine,” a source familiar with the army’s thinking said.
Liberal senator David Van, chair of the parliamentary Friends of Ukraine group, said it was “complete bollocks” that the vehicles could not be sent to Ukraine.
“There are 450 Hawkeis sitting in the Thales compound in Bendigo. Why won’t we send them?”
He said the braking issue only mattered when driving at 100 kilometres an hour on the road and would not affect Ukrainian soldiers given they would be driving at lower speeds on fields and in woodlands.
The package of assistance to be announced next week could possibly include donations of Australian Abrams tanks.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, said the main advantage of the Hawkei would be acting as a mobile launch platform for the Norwegian Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System it was using on the battlefield.
“This state-of-the-art air defence system is already in use in Ukraine and proves to be a game changer in defending Ukrainian cities and civilians from aerial attacks,” he said.
Kateryna Argyrou, co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations, said: “We urge the Australian government to free the Hawkei, so we can secure victory together.”
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