Trade Minister Andrew Robb cancels visit to Russia over actions in Ukraine

Trade Minister Andrew Robb has cancelled a trade visit to Russia in protest at Russia's incursion into Ukraine on the weekend.

A planned visit to Australia by Russia's national security adviser will also not go ahead, Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced to Parliament on Monday afternoon.

"Russia should back off," Mr Abbott said. "It should withdraw its forces from the Ukraine and the people of the Ukraine ought to be able to determine their future themselves."

    The federal government on Monday called in the Russian ambassador to explain his country's actions in the Ukraine.

    Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozoy met the head of Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Peter Varghese on Monday morning.

    Earlier on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop said the Australian government would express its concerns about the situation unfolding in Ukraine.

    "We will express our concerns officially, directly through him and try to ascertain exactly what the Russian government thinks it's doing," Ms Bishop told ABC radio.

    "We are urgently requesting the Russian government to abide by its international obligations."

    On Sunday Prime Minister Tony Abbott urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to "back off" from the Ukraine after Mr Putin won parliamentary approval to send troops into the neighbouring country.

    "This is very, very concerning and I think that every Australian, and people right around the world, will be thinking: hands off the Ukraine," Mr Abbott said. "This is not the kind of action of a friend and neighbour and I think Russia should back off."

    Following his meeting with Mr Varghese on Monday, Mr Morozov blasted criticism of Russia's incursion into Crimea as "anti-Russian hysteria".

    ''We are not going to tolerate any harassment of our counterparts in Crimea," Mr Morozov said.

    "Of course the Russian government is going to do everything in its capacity to ensure the interests of the Russian population in Crimea.''

    Mr Morozov said that, beyond the actions it has already taken, Russia has not decided to use force in Ukraine.

    "We do understand Australia's concern and we have concerns about the situation in the Ukraine,'' he said.

    "I would just like to say this gives the means and tools to the Russian president this doesn't mean the decision is taken. This just means the president has the full range of means in his hands to stabilise the situation.''

    Ms Bishop said Australia would use its seat on the United Nations Security Council to urge Russia to hold diplomatic talks with Ukranian leaders.

    "What the international community needs to do now is to focus on how to step back urgently from the crisis," Ms Bishop said.

    "We've made it clear that we unequivocally support the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.

    ''It's unacceptable for any nation to threaten the territorial integrity of Ukraine in any way and the Australian government has made clear there should be no use of force or threat and disputes should be settled by peaceful means.

    "The international community must speak with one voice and must give support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine."

    Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said the opposition supports the UN secretary genera's call for the preservation of Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.

    "Any threat to that is completely unacceptable," she said in a statement.

    "Labor urges all parties to exercise restraint and to seek to resolve the situation peacefully."

    Follow us on Twitter

    The story Trade Minister Andrew Robb cancels visit to Russia over actions in Ukraine first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

    Tablet - Narrow
    Tablet - Wide