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Australian soldiers to back up police in securing Ukrainian site of MH17 crash

A small number of Australian soldiers will be deployed to back up police charged with securing the crash site of MH-17 in Ukraine.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Friday that a further 100 Australian Federal Police officers are leaving for Europe today and that some of them could be armed.

Australia has already deployed 90 AFP officers to Europe to help with the crash investigation and to secure the site, which is believed to be roughly 50 square kilometres in size.

The group of 100 will be pre-deployed to the Netherlands and Mr Abbott said a small number of ADF members would travel with the group.  

Mr Abbott said Australia was close to finalising an agreement with Ukraine for the deployment of police to assist in the investigation around MH-17 and to secure the crash site.


He stressed that the Australian deployment had ‘‘one purpose and one purpose only’’ which was to ‘‘bring our people home’’.

Mr Abbott said Australia had no desire to get involved in European politics.

‘‘All we want to do is claim our dead and to bring them back.’’

The Prime Minister also stressed that Australian personnel would be part of a ‘‘police-led’’ humanitarian mission.

The announcement follows the revelation on Thursday afternoon that 50 Australian Federal Police officers have flown to London awaiting deployment to Ukraine as part of an international force to secure the site so that investigators can work unmolested.

There are a further 40 Australian personnel also already in Europe.

As well as backing up the police, the ADF personnel will help liaise with military elements from partner countries including the Netherlands and possibly other countries whose citizens were killed in the crash.

Mr Abbott added that he had spoken twice to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week.

He said that Mr Putin had been ‘‘full of sympathy, as you would expect from another human being’’ about what happened to the 37 families in Australia.

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