- Analysis: Abbott still battling for access to MH17 crash site
- In Ukraine, lives of innocents caught in crossfire
Russia has called for a second United Nations Security Council resolution before Australian and international armed forces are allowed on the ground to support efforts to retrieve the dead and investigate how Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was brought down.
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Paul McGeough reports from Shakhtersk in eastern war-ravaged Ukraine, where fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels have blocked international access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site.
And in an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Russia's Charge d'Affaires in Canberra, Nikolay Nozdrev, said Russian President Vladimir Putin still wanted to come to the G20 in Brisbane in November.
Mr Nozdrev lashed Ukraine for stopping a Dutch-Australian police force from reaching the crash site of the airliner for three days running, blaming Kiev's escalating attacks on Russian-backed rebel forces in the region.
Mr Nozdrev said Russia had backed the UN resolution agreed on July 21 at the UN Security Council, which called for a ''full, thorough and independent international investigation'', but now it appeared Ukraine had a ''different agenda'' as he stressed Russian sympathy with the Australians who lost family and friends.
"They [Ukraine] see the resolution as an opportunity to regroup and start a major offensive against the Donetsk People's Republic. The international team has lost a few valuable days. Because of them they can't get access to the site,'' he said. "What we thought initially was a new UN Security Council resolution was needed for a mandate for this. That is still our position, to have a separate UN resolution for armed teams."
But Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop has fired back, describing Russia's claims as "an attempt to distract attention away from the role Russia has played, at the very least, in creating the circumstances that led to the shooting down of MH17".
"There is no need for a second resolution at this stage as UN resolution 2166 is clear in its terms - we won't support any Russian attempt to create the grounds for any overt breach of Ukrainian territory in east Ukraine. We are still implementing the terms of 2166,'' she said from Kiev.
"We are looking for Russia's support to influence the separatists so we can access the site through a humanitarian corridor to enable us time to get to the site and get back again.
"We are operating in a war zone. This is a fast moving environment. We are considering every option in order to access the site. Dutch and Australian teams are working around the clock to ensure they can access the site in a way that doesn't risk the site."
The comments came as Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Australia was unlikely to immediately follow the US and European Union's lead in imposing further sanctions on Russia as Moscow's help was still needed in aiding the unarmed police mission's safe passage to the MH17 crash site.
''At the moment our focus is not on sanctions - our focus is on bringing home our dead,'' he said. ''If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again - that's the approach that the Australian government and our international partners, particularly the Dutch, have got to this.''
Mr Abbott said the situation on the ground was ''fluid'' but the government would not be taking sides, ''at least at this time''.
Mr Nozdrev said sanctions were ''totally counter productive''.
''It won't resolve the situation - it will impede resolution of the issue,'' he said, adding there was no ''technical proof'' of Russian involvement in bringing down MH17.
It is also understood that Russian diplomats in New York are pushing for a new UN resolution that condemns Ukraine for continued fighting in the crash zone.
Mr Nozdrev said a second resolution could be passed quickly as Russia understood the urgency of the situation and that it was needed because ''it's not just Ukrainian territory''.
He said: "There is conflict, there are military conditions. Co-operation is needed from all sides. It is the Ukraine's fault that those investigating have not got to the crash site.''
Regarding Mr Putin's scheduled appearance at G20, Mr Nozdrev said it was a collective organisation ''so all decisions should be made by all participants. Russia still wants to come''.
with Daniel Flitton