- Fighting hampers access to MH17 crash site
- Analysts say justice for victims very difficult
- Planes carrying victims' bodies land in the Netherlands
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has asked Defence chiefs and senior government officials to prepare plans for Australia to join a possible multinational force to enter Ukraine to secure the crash site of MH17.
Hardening his language around the need for international intervention to ensure a genuine air crash investigation and recovery effort is conducted, Mr Abbott on Wednesday signalled he was willing to send more Australians to Ukraine to enforce the United Nations resolution that the almost 300 victims are recovered ''with immediate effect''.
Coffins containing the bodies of victims are loaded onto a plane. Photo: Getty Images
''I've asked senior officials in a range of different agencies to prepare a range options and we will look at those options. It's a dangerous part of the world,'' Mr Abbott said.
''The Australian government is looking at options for creating a safe environment for the forensic search of the area covered by the crash trail. We are talking to our partners in grief about more work at the United Nations and elsewhere to support the UN resolution.''
Mr Abbott would not be drawn on ''speculation'' that thousands of well-armed troops would be needed to secure the 50 square kilometre crash area, currently controlled by Russian-backed separatists suspected of launching the missile that shot down MH17.
But he insisted that the Australian-led United Nations resolution justified the need for a stronger, foreign-led effort to lock down the investigation site where up to 100 bodies are still to be recovered.
Paragraph 8 of the UN resolution demands the ''dignified, respectful, and professional treatment'' of the site and the recovery of the victims ''with immediate effect''. Mr Abbott described the recovery efforts and investigation so far as ''quite unprofessional''.
He staked the success of his government's response to the disaster on bringing the bodies of all victims home to Australia.
''We will bring all of them home. We must bring all of them home,'' he said.
''My fear is that unless we do more, unless we prepare for further possible measures, some of them will never come home and that would be completely unacceptable for bereaved families in Australia and right around the world.
''We just don't know how many bodies we have. It's quite possible that many bodies are still out there, in the open, in the European summer subject to interference and subject to the ravages of heat and animals.''
Mr Abbott said he had encountered strong support from fellow world leaders on the need for action and Australia's special envoy, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, has insisted on the need for a full and professional investigation.
''In his view, we need a large team conducting a forensic search. A proper scouring of the site to identify anything that may have been missed up until now. Because it is entirely possible, in his view, that there could be further human remains or further significant wreckage in the area. It might be the partial remains of a loved one, it might be a small but critical piece of a missile that is the key to the investigation,'' Mr Abbott said.
Air Chief Marshal Houston was on Wednesday in the Ukrainian government-controlled city of Kharkiv, where he was due to escort the bodies of Australian victims on to military aircraft, including a RAAF C17 Hercules for the flight to the Netherlands for forensic identification.
To the dismay of leaders around the world, the refrigerated train that left Donetsk carried just 200 bodies, meaning nearly 100 more could still be in the open and undiscovered.
The bodies were received ''with honour'' by Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove when they arrived in the Netherlands.
Mr Abbott dismissed as baseless ''new theories'' suggestions out of Russia that a Ukrainian jet downed MH17.
Speaking from the United States, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said effective international cooperation will be essential to investigating the tragedy.
''Right now, our first priority must be to assist families in their grief, and to identify and bring home the victims' remains,'' he said.
"So far, (Russian) President (Vladimir) Putin has indicated Russia will fully cooperate with the investigation.
"These words must be matched with action."