Prime Minister Tony Abbott today called for an independent international probe into the downing of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that claimed 298 lives, including of 28 Australians.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17 was blown up over Eastern Ukraine by a sophisticated BAK surface-to-air missile believed to be fired by pro-Russia rebels.
Abbott said Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will fly to the United States today evening to campaign for an international investigation into what has happened.
Bishop is expected to head Australia’s efforts in pushing for a UN Security Council resolution seeking open and independent access to the MH17 crash site.
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Six officers from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade have been deployed to Kiev, and more are on their way, including a five-member emergency response team as well as a team of The Australian Federal Police. Abbott said Australia will do whatever is humanly possible to ensure the “matter is absolutely, thoroughly investigated” and to “bring the perpetrators to justice”.
“Our objective is to ensure for the dead and for the living, dignity, respect and justice,” Abbott said adding that “Right now, for all we know – because this site is controlled by Russian-backed rebels – bodies remain strewn over the fields of the eastern Ukraine and armed rebels are trampling the site”.
“So it is absolutely vital that an independent, international investigation begin as soon as possible so that we can identify and recover the remains of all the Australians onboard. And we are working urgently with our international partners to that end”, he said.
Bishop said the government’s appeal would go before the UN.
“I have spoken with our representative in the UN and I understand that our calls for a binding resolution will be debated during the course of next week,” she said. “That is why I will be leaving for New York as soon as possible to work with our Australian officials and representatives to secure that binding resolution for the independent investigation,” she added. Bishop also said, “I will also be travelling to Washington to meet with security and intelligence experts to ensure that Australia is fully briefed on the international intelligence that is available in relation to this matter for we are determined to ascertain what happened, why it happened, how it happened and who is responsible”.
Meanwhile, Abbott reacted to claims from Russian foreign ministry officials that his comments about blaming pro-Russian separatists for the attack was unacceptable. “It’s clear that all the evidence at this stage suggests that this aircraft was shot down from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels, most likely using equipment supplied by the Russians,” he said.
“The point I made yesterday, I repeat: Australia takes avery dim view of countries which facilitate the killing of Australians, as you would expect us to.” “The idea that Russia can wash its hands of responsibility because this happened in Ukrainian air space, just does not stand serious scrutiny,” he added.
He also said that he had no contact with Russian president Vladimir Putin but would be meeting the Russian trade minister who is in Sydney.
The latest figures released by Malaysia Airlines show the plane was carrying 192 Dutch nationals (including one with dual US citizenship), 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 Britains (including one with dual South African citizenship, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.