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Russia can't 'wash its hands' off MH17 crash: Australia PM

“The evidence at this stage suggests that this aircraft was shot down from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels, by Russian-backed rebels, most likely using equipment supplied by the Russians,” says Australia Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

SYDNEY: A monitoring mission from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) gained temporary access to the MH17 crash site last night, but was driven off by gunfire, said Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott in a press conference on Saturday (July 19).

Reiterating the urgent need for an independent international investigation that can proceed unimpeded at the crash site, he said: “Because this site is controlled by Russian-backed rebels, right now for all we know, bodies remain strewn over the fields of the eastern Ukraine and armed rebels are trampling the site.”

Australia is currently working with the United Nations Security Council to secure a UN-backed investigation and a binding Security Council resolution for a full, independent, comprehensive international investigation with access to the debris, the black box and other sources of information, Mr Abbott said.

Asked about Russia’s response to these efforts, Australia Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she has not been able to get in touch with her Russian counterpart, saying: “We don’t know the attitude to the particular aspects of the binding resolution.

Mr Abbott was explicit about his view of Russia’s role and responsibilities in the current situation. “It’s clear that all the evidence at this stage suggests that this aircraft was shot down from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels, by Russian-backed rebels, most likely using equipment supplied by the Russians,” he said. “Now, this is a problem - a very serious problem - and the point I made yesterday I repeat: Australia takes a very dim view of countries which facilitate killing of Australians, as you’d expect us to. We take a very, very dim view of this and the idea that Russia can wash its hands of responsibility, because this happened in Ukrainian airspace, just does not stand serious scrutiny."

A delegation from Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and trade and an emergency response team are on their way to Kiev. Contingency arrangements are also in place to provide for the repatriation of bodies.

“During these difficult weeks ahead, the government will do everything we can to support the bereaved families,” said the Prime Minister. “Australia will do whatever we humanly can to ensure that this matter is absolutely thoroughly investigated to find out what we can and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Our objective is to ensure for the dead and for the living - dignity, respect and justice.”

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