News National PM frustrated with MH17 block

PM frustrated with MH17 block

Tony Abbott
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott and police are frustrated with both the Ukraine government and pro-Russian militia over a lack of access to the MH17 crash site.

For the second day running an unarmed Australian and Dutch police contingent was forced to turn around due to shelling and gunfire before reaching the area toward Ukraine’s eastern border where the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed on July 17.

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Mr Abbott, who met with the national security committee of cabinet on Tuesday, said it was a “confused situation on the ground” but a third attempt would be made.

“There is fighting and it’s not just the separatists, it’s the Ukrainian government as well,” he said on Tuesday.

Both sides had made a commitment to use “their best endeavours” to get the site safe enough for the Dutch-Australian team.

“And it’s high time those commitments were honoured.”

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, expressed the his team’s frustration and anger.

“We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire,” he said.

Dutch police chief Gerard Bouman believes the chances the police can recover all the remains and evidence is “not very good”.

Mr Abbott spoke with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak on Tuesday afternoon and the leaders agreeed on their “absolute determination and commitment” to gain access to the site.

The Ukrainian military has seized back a number of villages in the country’s east with a continuing show of strength, including tanks and shelling.

However, a spokesman for Ukraine’s national security council denied Ukrainian forces were fighting within the 20km radius around the crash site in the Donetsk region and blamed the shelling on pro-Russian forces.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Australia’s special envoy Angus Houston have met Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko to push for an exclusion zone and humanitarian corridor.

Ms Bishop also wants the Ukrainian parliament to this week ratify a deployment agreement she’s signed with her counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, that would allow Australia to send in armed police or soldiers.

Ukraine and the 11 countries which lost 298 citizens – including up to 39 Australian residents – have also agreed to set up a joint team of prosecutors to examine possible criminal charges against those who downed the plane, which is believed to have been shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a surface-to-air missile launcher.

Europe’s judicial cooperation agency Eurojust will be involved in the process.

Dutch investigators are expected to release an initial report on the plane’s black box recorders this week.

US President Barack Obama and European leaders are considering toughening up sanctions against Russia, particularly in the areas of access to capital markets, defence, dual-use goods and technology.

An Essential poll of almost 2000 Australian voters released on Tuesday found 62 per cent of voters believe the federal government should impose trade sanctions on Russia.

Only 29 per cent of voters said Russian leader Vladimir Putin should be allowed to attend the G20 leaders summit in Brisbane in November.

Meanwhile, Mr Abbott’s personal standing amongst voters has been boosted following his handling of the MH17 crisis, with the latest Newspoll showing him drawing level with Opposition Leader Bill Shorten as preferred prime minister.