Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that he has put his nation’s military on standby in response to the alleged shooting down of commercial aircraft Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, on which 28 Australian citizens died. Any action by Russia to prevent Australian access to the crash site, he said, would be taken “very badly.”
“It does look more like a garden cleanup than a forensic investigation,” Abbott said in an address to the nation, in which he explained that he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin and that Putin had “said all the right things.” While refusing to divulge the details of that conversation, he noted that “what he said was fine. … The challenge now is to hold the president to his word.”
He described the handling of the crash site as “an affront to dignity,” as pro-Russian gangs denied access to international investigators, and individual citizens cleaned up body parts from their private property with little help from the Ukrainian government–also barred from the region by pro-Russian gangs–and the Donetsk separatists. Australia lost 28 citizens and nine residents in the crash; in one notable instance, an Australian woman lost family in both the MH17 crash and the ongoing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 mystery.
To help amend that situation, Abbott’s government is proposing a resolution to the United Nations Security Council to allow unfettered access to the crash site. Describing the tenor of subsequent conversations with Russian officials as “firmer and sterner,” he warned the Russian government that a veto of the resolution at the Security Council would be taken “very badly.” He has mentioned in numerous public appearances since the crash, as well, that Australia is committed to “punishing the guilty,” not just bringing the bodies home.
To that end, Abbott warned that Australian military aircraft, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, was “on standby” in the event of any needed military intervention. The military was there, Abbott said, to “play our part to ensure that we get justice for the dead and closure for the living.” The introduction of Australian military to an already chaotic situation in eastern Ukraine could serve to make of the longtime violence in the region an international military crisis.
The Russian government has responded to Australia’s demands with apparent cooperation, as Putin stated publicly that Russia will do all possible to allow access to the site and that “absolutely everything must be done for their full security and to guarantee the humanitarian corridors necessary for their work.” Despite the kind words, reports have surfaced that Russia is already bargaining regarding the resolution, offering to support it only if the Russian government is not explicitly named in the resolution as a guilty party. There is, however, what United States Secretary of State John Kerry described as “a build-up of extraordinary circumstantial evidence” against Russia in this case, particularly claims that the Russian government provided Donetsk separatists with surface-to-air missiles that could have been used to take down MH17.