Australia Official: Putin to Ask Ukraine Rebels to Aid Malaysia Airlines Crash Probe

Experts say flight MH17 was brought down by explosion consistent with surface-to-air missile.

AFP

DPA - Russian President Vladimir Putin has agreed to use his influence with pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine to aid the investigation into the crash of a Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, Australia's top diplomat said Saturday.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told ABC radio that she and Putin met on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Milan Friday.

"I implored him to use Russian influence over the separatists in eastern Ukraine to enable our investigators to have access to the crash site," Bishop told ABC radio.

Putin responded "very constructively," she said.

"He said that he would seek to respond to my request by asking the separatists to provide that access," Bishop said.

Moscow voiced condemnation over the the July 17 crash of flight MH17, which experts said was brought down by an explosion consistent with a surface-to-air missile.

Dozens of Australians were among the 298 victims, and Canberra took a tough stance against Moscow.

Experts from the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia have recovered some of the victims' remains on brief visits to the site.

The United States, Europe and Australia accused Moscow of blocking the probe in the region, where separatists took up arms against Kiev after Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March.

The investigators want to return to continue their work in a specific area, Bishop said.

Her meeting with Putin came days after Prime Minister Tony Abbott warned he would confront Putin over the MH17 crash at the G20 summit in Brisbane next month.

"I am going to be saying to Mr. Putin, Australians were murdered. They were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment," Abbott said Monday.

Australia last month admitted that it had failed to lobby leaders of the G20 group of wealthy nations to bar Putin from the Brisbane summit over his actions in Ukraine.