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Tony Abbott vows to 'shirtfront' Vladimir Putin over downing of flight MH17

Australia's prime minister promised 'tough conversations' with Putin at G20 summit

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Monday 13 October 2014 12:26 BST
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to 'shirtfront' Vladimir Putin over the downing of MH17
Australian PM Tony Abbott vows to 'shirtfront' Vladimir Putin over the downing of MH17

Australia’s prime minister Tony Abbott has promised he will “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin over the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed 38 Australian citizens.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Mr Abbott said there will be “tough conversations with Russia,” as the government confirmed president Putin will be invited to the G20 summit of economic leaders held in Brisbane next month.

Mr Abbott said Australia does not have the right to ban any member from attending the G20 summit as it is an international organisation that works on consensus, but he promised to have the “toughest conversation of all” with the Russian leader if he decides to attend.

“I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin – you bet I am,” he said, using a term from Australia’s football rules, meaning to make a head-on charge at an opponent with the aim of knocking them to the ground.

“I am going to be saying to Mr Putin Australians were murdered, they were murdered by Russian-backed rebels,” he said.

All 298 passengers and crew on board the MH17 flight were killed when the plane was hit by a large number of “high energy objects” on 17 July; 38 of the passengers on board were Australian citizens and residents, including some children.

It has been alleged that the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatist rebels in Ukraine, an allegation that Mr Abbott intends to put to president Putin at the summit.

He intends to say to president Putin: “[Australians] were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment. We are very unhappy about this.

“We accept that you didn’t want this to happen, but we now demand that you fully co-operate with the criminal investigation.”

Tony Abbot plans on confronting president Putin (Getty Images)

“And if the criminal investigation identifies suspects that you have some influence over, they’ve got to be produced and justice has got to be done,” he added.

But the proposed attendance by the Russian leader has been criticised as “rubbing our faces in it” by Australia’s opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Abbott saidthere will be “a lot of tough conversations with Russia, and I suspect the conversation that I have with Mr Putin will be the toughest conversation of all”.

Russia and Australia have introduced trade sanctions against each other in recent months as bilateral relations deteriorated over Russia's involvement in the Ukraine conflict.

Additional reporting by AP

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