Abbott condemns leaving rebels to lead MH17 recover effort

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott described the recovery effort at the MH17 crash site in Ukraine as looking more like a "garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation on Monday.

Mr Abbott on Tuesday again hit out at Russian rebels hampering efforts to secure the crash site, saying the rebels preventing the removal of 298 victims were like leaving "criminals in charge of a crime scene".

Lifting his rhetoric against Russian President Vladimir Putin, Mr Abbott said it was the intention of "the family of nations to hold the president to his word", after Putin said "all the right things" during a phone call on Sunday night.

Mr Abbott said the three main aims for coming days were to retrieve the bodies, secure the crash site and allow a "frank" investigation into the circumstances surrounding the shooting down of the Malaysian Airlines aircraft.

He also confirmed he had sought legal advice on the potential to declare the incident an "act of terrorism", which would also facilitate compensation to be paid to the families of the 37 Australian citizens and residents killed.

As Mr Abbott led high-level phone calls with leaders across Europe, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was in New York, preparing to put a resolution before the United Nations Security Council.

That resolution, calling on pro-Russian rebels to provide full and unfettered access to the crash site, is understood to have backing from several council members, but a Russian veto has not been ruled out.

It was effectively endorsed by United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, who have both condemned the reported rebel actions, and called for Russia to allow a frank and independent investigation of the crash site.

Mr Abbott said after speaking to other foreign leaders on Sunday night, including Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte, and it was clear the mood of those leaders was "firmer and sterner now" compared with the 24 hours immediately after the downing of the aircraft.

"We have seen the faces of the dead over the last couple of days and no one could not be moved because those who were lost in the plane, they could be anyone, they could be everyone - that's the point," he said.

His comments came as the government also dispatched some 45 consular staff, air transport investigators and others to Kiev, as well as former Defence Force Chief Angus Houston.

Houston, who led the investigation into the MH370 downing, will be Mr Abbott's special envoy in Kiev, negotiating with Ukrainian and Dutch officials in the lead-up to securing the crash site.

Mr Abbott said should he decide to declare the incident an act of terrorism, the families of the 28 Australians and nine permanent residents who died could be able to access victims of terrorism compensation.

"I think that for all 37 families there is going to be a very, very long period in which they come to terms with this," he said.

"It's hard enough to cope with standard bereavement, but bereavement in these circumstances is ghastly - ghastly almost beyond the imagination of most of us."



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