The latest polling finds that Australians are overwhelmingly in support of Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s plan to have a “robust” confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin at this year’s G20 summit, hosted by Australia.
According to a Newspoll in The Australian, 66% of those polled supported the Prime Minister’s declaration that he would confront Putin about those killed in the attack on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which crashed over disputed Ukrainian territory and is believed to have been taken down by Russian separatist rebels.
Despite audio that seems to indicate Russian separatists clearly took responsibility for the attack, Russian media have suggested a number of theories to exonerate them, including the claim that the Ukrainian government may have been involved, and even that it was a hoax involving a plane of bodies that were already dead, deliberately crashed to make Russia look guilty.
Many of those killed on MH17 were Australian citizens, and Prime Minister Abbott said publicly last week that he was dissatisfied with answers from the Kremlin on why those people had to die. Abbott promised to “shirt-front” (an Australian rugby term) Putin and demand answers. The Russian government’s official response to Abbott’s statements? “Putin is a judo champion.”
The Russian outlet Pravda did not mince words as much as Russian authorities. “Like any bully there comes a day when you pick on the wrong person, get your teeth smashed in and go running home to mummy blabbering like a ninny,” an editorial in Pravda said of Abbott, warning that Putin would not tolerate such a “crass example of stupidity.”
Since his original comments, Abbott has still vowed to confront Putin, but in more diplomatic terms. “I’m going to make it very clear that the Australian people expect–that the world expects–full cooperation by Russia in the criminal investigation, so that the people who committed this atrocity can be brought to justice,” he said last week in language The Wall Street Journal called “more conciliatory.”
Perhaps it was this last taunt that did it, or the subject matter itself was enough, but Australians appear to support taking a hard line against Putin regarding MH17. The Australian notes that, despite the overwhelming support for confronting Putin, Abbott’s Coalition Party has dropped to a three-month low in support. While still receiving the most support, the conservative party dwindled down to a 38% approval rating, only four votes above the Labour Party.