Federal Politics

Accusation from Tony Abbott that Russia is 'washing its hands' of any responsibility for MH17 crash

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused Russia of attempting to wash its hands of any responsibility for the MH17 disaster and blamed pro-Russian forces for blocking access to the crash site.

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MH17: Abbott defends 'unacceptable' comments

Tony Abbott's comments that were condemned as '"unacceptable" by Russia were in line with those of US President Barack Obama, and supported by the evidence the Prime Minister said on Saturday.

Mr Abbott called in a visiting Russian minister on the weekend to rebuke him over Russia's response to the tragedy after more senior Russian officials rebuffed attempts to speak to them.

Mr Abbott has not spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has not accepted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's requests for a telephone conversation. Junior officials in Russia's foreign affairs ministry also declined to speak to Ms Bishop before she departed for the US on Saturday.

Ms Bishop was due to arrive in Washington at 11am Sunday (1am Monday AEST) for security briefings before travelling to New York on Monday. There she will lobby other members of the United Nations Security Council to back a resolution condemning the shooting down of the plane and calling for independent investigators to be given unfettered access to the site.

US Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Mr Lavrov on the weekend to stress the importance of giving investigators full access to the crash site.

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Mr Abbott said he made ''crystal clear my concerns'' in a meeting with Russian Economic Development Minister Alexei Ulyukayev, who was in Sydney for preliminary G20 discussions.

''My fear is that Russia will say the right thing but that on the ground interference with the site, interference with investigators, interference with the dignified treatment of bodies will continue,'' he told the ABC's Insiders program.

Has not accepted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's requests for a telephone conversation: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey ...
Has not accepted Foreign Minister Julie Bishop's requests for a telephone conversation: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Photo: AP

''There are excuses, there is blame shifting, there is hand-washing going on and that's not acceptable.''

Over the weekend Mr Abbott spoke to British Prime Minister David Cameron, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Ukrainian Prime Minister Petro Poroshenko. Mr Poroshenko invited Australia to participate in an investigation into the disaster and be part of the body recovery operation.

Said two attempts by investigators to access the crash site had been hampered by pro-Russian separatists: Prime Minister ...
Said two attempts by investigators to access the crash site had been hampered by pro-Russian separatists: Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Photo: Brett Hemmings

Mr Abbott said two attempts by investigators to access the crash site had been hampered by pro-Russian separatists including one attempt stopped by gunfire. There have also been reports of looting at the crash site, raising doubts about whether important evidence, such as black boxes, can be secured.

Mr Abbott said he was personally touched by the tragedy because his daughters had flown on the MH17 some months ago on their way home from Europe.

Outrage: Members of the Australian Ukrainian community protest against Putin coming to Australia for the G20 summit.
Outrage: Members of the Australian Ukrainian community protest against Putin coming to Australia for the G20 summit. Photo: AFP

''You look at the faces of the dead and they're your neighbours, they're your friends, they could be your kids because let's face it, we are a people who like to travel and my own daughters flew on MH17 some months ago on their way home from Europe,'' he said.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten met with Mr Abbott for briefings on Sunday before travelling on a pre-arranged trip to the US where he will meet with Vice-President Joe Biden and other leaders.

Mr Shorten said the aftermath of the crash was an ''unbelievable moment of pain for lots of Australian families''.