Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that he plans to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin on the downing in July of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 during a summit in Brisbane next month.
"Look, I’m going to shirtfront Mr. Putin — you bet I am," Abbott told reporters Monday using a term used to describe aggressive play in Australian football.
The Russian leader is due to attend a G20 summit in the Australian city November 15-16.
Twenty-eight of the 298 victims of the MH17 tragedy over eastern Ukraine were Australian nationals.
“Australians were murdered, [and] they were murdered by Russian-backed rebels,” Abbott said.
The Boing 777, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is widely believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian rebels. Kyiv blames the incident on the separatists and accuses Moscow of having provided the missile system believed to have been used in the plane’s downing. The rebels and Moscow deny the accusations, blaming Kyiv instead, saying that the plane went down in Ukrainian airspace.
Recovery efforts continue
Meanwhile, four Dutch police experts visited the MH17 crash site on Monday to help recover personal belongings and, in some cases, human remains which still lay strewn in an area in eastern Ukraine where, despite a cease-fire, sporadic fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels continues.
The experts were on hand to advise Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry personnel working the wreckage fields where the plane was brought down on July 17, Reuters reports.
Nearly 200 of the victims were Dutch.
Among the items collected were books, toothpaste, playing cards, a plastic watch and a stick of antiperspirant but many were too badly burnt to identify.
Dutch forensics teams in the Netherlands have identified 272 victims of the crash, but there are still believed to be remains at the crash site, located near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region.
Poroshenko appoints new defense minister
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday nominated National Guard commander Stepan Poltorak as the country's new defense minister.|
Poltorak, 47, expected to be approved by parliament Tuesday, would replace Valery Heletey, who offered his resignation Sunday.
Heletey had been under fire since August when Ukrainian forces suffered heavy losses at Ilovaysk, east of the main rebel-held eastern city of Donetsk.
Kyiv says more than 100 Ukrainian soldiers and members of volunteer battalions were encircled and killed in the Ilovaysk area during an unexpected attack by Russian forces supporting the separatists.
Poroshenko had appointed Heletey, a former head of a presidential bodyguard unit, only in July.
Heletey drew ire almost immediately after his appointment when he claimed Ukrainians would see a future victory parade in Crimea, the Black Sea peninsula Russia annexed in March.
Poroshenko praised Poltorak for what the president described as his "professional and patriotic position" and "decency," and for instilling discipline and "firm morale" in the ranks of the National Guard, the presidential website reported.
Some information for this story came from Reuters.