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Russia under fire over MH17 crash probe

18 october 2014, 13:16
0
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop arrives to attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). ©AFP
Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop arrives to attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). ©AFP

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop delivered a diplomatic version of the "shirt front" promised by Prime Minister Tony Abott as Russia came under fire over the fate of flight MH17 at the ASEM summit, AFP reports.

In an interview with AFP on Friday, Bishop revealed that she had taken her Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov to task on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe gathering.

She said she had bluntly spelled out her government's frustration at what it sees as Moscow's hampering of the Dutch-led probe into the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in July.

All 298 people on board died, including 38 who were citizens or residents of Australia.

Western governments believe the plane was shot down by pro-Russian rebels with a Russian-made missile.

Moscow says Ukraine is responsible for the incident.

Bishop's intervention came as Dutch Prime Minister Mark Roote upbraided Russian President Vladimir Putin for his failure to rein in the pro-Moscow rebels accused of restricting access to the crash site, which has never been properly secured.

A total of 153 Dutch nationals died in the crash and Dutch investigators are leading the probe into what caused it.

A total of 26 people who were on board the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight are still unaccounted for because their remains have not been identified.

Distressingly for relatives, there may still be human parts which have not been recovered from the crash site, which was inaccessible for much of August and early September because of fighting in the area.

  'Predictable response'

 

"Russia has not been as cooperative as we would have expected," Bishop said after her face-to-face encounter with Lavrov.

"They even took action in the UN Security Council seeking to undermine the impartiality and independence of the investigation.

"We fully support the Dutch-led investigation and I asked Lavrov for Russia's full cooperation and that they use their influence over the rebels to ensure there can be full access to the crash site, not only for the purposes of checking for any remains but also to enable the investigators to carry out a thorough investigation into the causes of the crash so that we can bring those responsible to justice."

Bishop acknowledged that veteran diplomat Lavrov had flat-batted her complaints, ensuring the explosive issue is likely to resurface when Putin visits Australia for next month's G20 summit.

"The response was somewhat predictable," Bishop said.

"He said it was a matter for Ukraine, as a crash that occurred in Ukrainian airspace. That is not a view I share."

Abbot has vowed to tackle Putin over MH17 at the Brisbane G20 meeting and made waves by using the term "shirtfront" -- which comes from testosterone-fuelled Australian Rules Football and refers to an aggressive body charge on an opponent.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev laughed off the threat earlier this week, pointing out that his boss Putin, a judo black-belt, was unlikely to be intimidated by the Australian's rhetoric.

An initial report by Dutch investigators issued last month found that the jet was hit by multiple "high-energy" objects but did not apportion blame.

Prime Minister Rutte used his meeting with Putin to demand "maximum cooperation" in the probe, he said.

"It is an emotional subject and of course I am angry at all parties who have made it impossible to start work in at the crash site," Rutte added.

The Australians and Dutch have been working closing on the MH17 probe with Malaysia, represented at ASEM by Prime Minister Mohammad Najib Razak.


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