australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Monday that he will “shirtfront” Russian President Vladimir Putin over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at the G20 summit in Brisbane in November. The Boeing 777-200 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17, killing all 298 people on board, in an area controlled by pro-Russian separatists.
The plane is believed to have been brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired by pro-Moscow rebels with access to Russian arms and ammunition. The Australian government had reportedly called to bar Putin from the meeting of world leaders over the downing of Flight MH17 but an agreement “by consensus” of G20 countries decided that Russia should not be sidelined from the meeting. Abbott reportedly said Sunday that it was not within Australia’s powers to ban Putin from the meeting.
“Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin — you bet I am,” Abbott reportedly told reporters, resorting to an Australian Rules football term that means roughing up an opponent. “I’m going to be saying to Mr Putin, Australians were murdered and they were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian supplied equipment.”
There were 28 Australians aboard Flight MH17, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was hit.
“There’ll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia and I suspect the conversation I have with Mr. Putin will be the toughest conversation of all,” Abbott reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Dutch and Ukraine officials reportedly reached an agreement Sunday that teams of investigators would resume efforts to search for more human remains at the crash site. All the bodies of the people on board Flight MH17 have not yet been recovered due to the ongoing conflict in the area between separatists and Ukrainian government forces.
Last week, a senior Dutch official was criticized for revealing that a passenger on the ill-fated flight was found wearing an oxygen mask over the mouth when the body was recovered from the crash site. A preliminary report of the investigation into the crash, released in September by the Dutch Safety Board, stated that the jetliner broke apart in mid-air after being hit by “a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside.”
Abbott also reportedly added that he would be seeking an assurance from Putin that he and his country will help in every means possible “to ensure that now, at least, justice is done.”