Ukrainian visitors will be allowed to stay in Australia under special visa provisions while the situation in their country remains volatile.
It follows the government’s decision to upgrade its travel advice to Ukraine, as the military stand-off with Russia escalates.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told parliament on Wednesday reports of Russia’s increased presence in Crimea were concerning and “totally unacceptable”.
“Australia joins with other nations across the globe in demanding that Russia take the lead in de-escalating the tensions, that it pull its troops back to base and that it demonstrates its respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty,” she told the lower house.
Ukrainians on a visa due to expire and who might be affected by the unrest can apply to have their stay extended.
“Subsequent applications may also be made if the situation of unrest in the Ukraine is further deemed by the government at that time to warrant a further extension,” Ms Bishop said in a statement.
Ukraine’s new West-leaning government has accused Russia of staging a de facto invasion by deploying troops to the Crimean peninsula.
Russian forces are also positioned along Ukraine’s eastern borders on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians there, following the uprising against fugitive former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Ukraine’s acting ambassador to Australia, Stanislav Stashevskyi, told federal parliamentarians a full-blown conflict could be avoided if there was adequate help from the international community.
“There is still a chance,” he told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the office of former prime minister Kevin Rudd dismissed suggestions his trip to Russia was linked to the Ukrainian crisis.
A spokeswoman for Mr Rudd said the visit was linked to his new role as a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School and a related research project on China.
“This travel was planned more than a month ago and is not connected with recent developments in the Ukraine,” she said.
The government has urged Australians to reconsider travel to Ukraine after warning earlier this week against visiting the restive Crimea region.