Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanks Australia, shares his experience as a wartime leader

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has declared he is unsure whether his country and Russia can ever have friendly relations again, warning the grief inflicted by the invasion will haunt his nation for a long time.

On the 161st day of the war, Mr Zelenskyy addressed an event at the Australian National University in Canberra via video-link, highlighting some of the atrocities committed by Russian troops on his soil and thanking the Albanese Government for its humanitarian and military support.

He fielded a series of questions from university students from around the nation but said the “hardest question” to answer was about the future of relations between Kyiv and Moscow.

“This is the most hard question,” Mr Zelenskyy said.

“Every family has lost something, whether it was a child, whether it was a father,” he said, before adding Russia would have to change dramatically before normal relations would be possible.

“This is a question that belongs only to them.”

Zelenskyy's face is seen on a large screen overhanging a stage in a packed auditorium
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed Australian universities, calling on Australians to debunk the “myths from the Russian propaganda machine”.(ABC News)

The President was also quizzed about the disastrous impact the invasion has had on the country’s economy and society.

As Ukrainian diplomats around the world approach allies to ask for more weapons and military equipment, they are also trying to get commitments from supportive nations about reconstruction, for whenever the war ends.

“The war has displaced 12 million people. Part of them are still in Ukraine losing their job, their business in other cities. Part has moved abroad losing the same,” he said.

“We lost a lot of jobs, millions of jobs actually.

“When [those who have left] have a desire to return we will rebuild.

“We will win.”

Ukraine urges Australia to ‘adopt’ part of the warn-torn country

In Canberra, the Ukrainian embassy is urging Australia to consider “adopting”, or focussing reconstruction assistance heavily, on a specific region in the war-torn country, whenever peace comes.

It has suggested areas near the Black Sea, including the strategic port city of Mykolaiv, would benefit from Australia’s maritime expertise.

Invading Russian forces have been trying to cut off Ukraine from the coast and have pounded critical infrastructure in the region.

Earlier this week, missile strikes on Mykolaiv killed the owner of one of the country’s largest grain exporters, which is headquartered in the city.

Ambassador Vasyl Myroshnychenko said once the invasion ended his country would need donations, business investment, help restoring schools, hospitals and power plants.

“Australia as a maritime nation could perhaps help us with port facilities, as an example,” he told the ABC.

“But we would be happy for any support in any place Australia chooses.”

Firefighters work at site of fire at Odesa port, with ship seen in background as smoke rises nearby.
Russia has targeted Ukraine’s sea ports, such as in Odesa.(Reuters: Joint Forces of the South Defence)

In July, dozens of countries, including Australia, vowed to support Ukraine through its recovery and discussed measures to battle corruption in the country.

Ukraine has suggested supportive nations each focus on specific regions to ensure the recovery is spread around equitably and coordinated efficiently.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been invited to take part in a virtual leaders meeting hosted by Ukraine later this month, where the issue is likely to be raised.

The Ukrainian Ambassador, who attended the ANU for Mr Zelenskyy’s address, also linked the conflict in his country with the announcement on Wednesday of a sweeping review into Australia’s military.

“At the end of the day it is so important to be ready,” Mr Myroshnychenko told the audience.

“To be ready to die for your country when there is a need for that.

“We need to build this resilience throughout society.”