News World Russia’s refusal to hold talks is ‘extraordinary’

Russia’s refusal to hold talks is ‘extraordinary’

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says its “extraordinary” that her Russian counterparts have refused to speak to her over the fatal downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane.

Twenty-eight Australians died on board flight MH17, which was shot down by a ground-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Pro-Russian separatists are being blamed for the attack, which left bodies and smouldering wreckage scattered across fields.

Ms Bishop told ABC’s Lateline program she initially tried to speak with Russian foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov, but was told he was on holidays.

“I then asked to speak to a deputy or a vice minister but I’ve now been told that I won’t be able to speak to anybody in the ministry of foreign affairs in Moscow,” she said.

She said no time was set, and she was told a phone call was “not possible”.

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Ms Bishop called on Russia, which denies involvement in the incident, to support a “thorough and independent investigation as soon as possible”.

“If Russia believes that Ukraine is responsible then Russia surely would be supporting such an investigation,” she said.

“I asked for assurances that Russian weapons or equipment had not been used to bring down this plane and [Russian ambassador to Australia Vladimir Morozov] said that there was no Russian equipment being supplied to the separatists.

“I found that a remarkable statement. He did admit that the separatists may well have the equipment to do this, because he suggested that they had captured a surface-to-air missile from Ukraine recently but they didn’t have the capability to operate it.”

Ms Bishop confirmed Australia has established its own investigation team and would be seeking access to the site.

“We are seeking representatives from the relevant countries. We will seek a binding resolution. I’ve been on the phone to a number of people on the security council to get that support,” she said.

Australia demands Russia end support of separatists

Meanwhile, Australia has criticised Russia during an emotional United Nations meeting, demanding Moscow ends its support of the separatists in Ukraine.

UN Security Council members have called for an independent international investigation into the crash.

The emergency meeting began with a minute’s silence, as ambassadors from around the world united in words of grief.

Australia’s representative Philippa King said the country was in mourning for all victims.

“If, as appears increasingly likely, flight MH17 was brought down by a missile then this is as Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said – an unspeakable crime – and the perpetrators must be brought swiftly to justice.”

She demanded Russia end the flow of weapons and fighters into Ukraine.

US ambassador Samantha Power held back tears as she later spoke.

“We saw next to three of the passengers names a capital I. As we now know the letter I stands for infant,” she said.

Russia’s ambassador offered condolences but questioned why air traffic controllers sent MH17 on its path across eastern Ukraine and asked that any investigation not be prejudged.

Russia promising full co-operation with investigations

Russian president Vladimir Putin has promised full co-operation with investigations into the incident.

Mr Putin denied accusation Russia was behind the carnage, saying Ukrainian forces were responsible because they continued to fight the rebels instead of negotiate.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is not accepting Russian explanations for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and has demanded it not stand in the way of a full inquiry into the tragedy.

“It really is a test for Russia … how transparent and fair dinkum is it going to be,” Mr Abbott said yesterday.

“There can be no excuses, no buck-passing, no blame-shifting.”

Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk made an impassioned plea to the international community to ensure what he described as a “war crime” does not go unpunished.

He wants the International Court of Justice to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

The Ukrainian government says it has evidence three people were operating the missile launcher that brought down the plane.

Meanwhile international investigators have been unable to secure an access corridor to the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines plane that was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

At the crash site, investigators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were allowed to examine the wreckage, but unidentified gunmen then forced them to leave.

Many of the bodies remain where they fell, and there are unconfirmed reports of some looting.