Sydney – Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Monday vowed to “shirtfront”, or confront, Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit next month over the loss of Australian lives in the MH17 crash over Ukraine.
Australia is hosting the summit in Brisbane and there had been question marks over whether Putin would take part.
But Treasurer Joe Hockey confirmed on Sunday the Russian leader would attend, despite concerns about Russia’s actions in Ukraine in recent months.
Abbott has used tough language against Russia since a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 onboard – including 38 Australian citizens or residents.
He said on Monday he would be confronting Putin over the tragedy.
“I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin – you bet I am,” Abbott told reporters, referring to an Australian sporting term in which a player charges someone.
“I’m going to be saying to Mr Putin – Australians were murdered and 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,” he added.
“But we now demand that you fully co-operate 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.”
Kiev and the West have accused Moscow-backed separatists of shooting down the plane with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charge and has pointed the finger back at Kiev.
Australia had initially been reluctant for Putin to attend the G20, but member nations indicated that he should, in order to address the geo-political tensions.
“While Australia is the president of the G20 this year, we can’t make unilateral decisions. It has to be by consensus and the G20 consensus is that Russia should come,” said Abbott.
“Now, I think that there’ll be a lot of tough conversations with Russia and I suspect that the conversation that I have with Mr. Putin will be the toughest conversation of all.
“But nevertheless, it’s not up to us to determine who is and who is not a member of the G20. I want the G20 to continue. I want Australia to be a constructive and strong member of the G20. I don’t want to be a G20 wrecker.”
The G20 leaders’ summit takes place from 15-16 November.