Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott threatened to “shirt-front” Russian President Vladimir Putin over the MH17 flight disaster when the two meet at a G20 summit in Brisbane in November. Findings from the investigation suggest Russian-backed rebels in east Ukraine shot down the Malaysian Airlines flight.
“Look, I’m going to shirt-front Mr. Putin. … You bet I am. I am going to be saying to Mr. Putin, Australians were murdered,” said Abbott. He added:
They 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 cooperate with the criminal investigation, 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.
The passenger list showed thirty-eight Australian citizens died in the plane crash.
Shirt-front is a term that comes from the Australian Football League (AFL), which is known as rugby in America. It is “used to describe a collision between two players where one player is hit ‘front-on’ by another player coming from the opposite direction.” It is an aggressive move, “often with the aggressor leaping into the air to forcefully collide with an unsuspecting and unprotected player.” The Sydney Morning Herald provided a few examples:
Alexander Odoevsky, Russian Embassy second secretary, said the threat is “immature,” but decided to provide his own jab to defend Putin, who is narcissistic.
“From a personal perspective, I would just say that Tony Abbott is very good at cycling, he is very fit, but [P]resident Putin is a judo champion,” he said, adding,
We are reluctant to comment officially on the statements. They are not helpful in any way, we are concentrating on making peace in Ukraine. We have 100,000 refugees from Ukraine in Russia. It’s very difficult so we are not involved in exchanging megaphone statements and muscle flexing.
He continued, “What we have … is a high profile, media-oriented, politicized statement that is of no value to achieve the outcomes of the ongoing (MH17) investigation. From the Russian perspective, we think the West has lost interest in learning the truth about MH17.”
The crash did cause an international uproar, but interest in the crash, which occurred on July 17, quickly subsided. Big pieces of debris remain on the ground, and the site is unsecured. All 298 passengers died, and 26 bodies are still in the fields. Four Dutch experts arrived on October 12 to retrieve passengers’ belongings.
Prime Minister Abbott refused to back down from his comments.
“We have all seen the impact of Russian policy in eastern Europe, we have all seen the impact of Russian policy on the innocent people on board flight MH17,” said Abbott. “I think it’s the very least I can do, speaking for Australian dead and the families of Australian dead and indeed speaking for the world’s victims is to have a very robust conversation with [P]resident Putin.”