SYDNEY, July 21 Australia's prime minister
voiced deep concern on Monday that Russian-backed rebels
remained in control of the crash site of a Malaysian airliner
shot down over Ukraine, saying the site looked more like a
"garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation.
At least 27 Australian passengers were among the 298 people
who were on board Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, shot
down over eastern Ukraine in an attack the West has blamed on
separatist rebels armed by Russia.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott, speaking on a breakfast radio
show, said he had spoken "overnight" to Russian President
Vladimir Putin for the first time about the disaster, amid
mounting horror over the treatment of victims' remains.
"He said all the right things and now we need him to be as
good as his word," Abbott told 2GB radio, declining to comment
in detail about his discussion with Putin.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday demanded Moscow
take responsibility for actions of pro-Russian rebels whom
Washington suspects of downing the jet with a missile. He
expressed disgust at their "grotesque" mishandling of the
Moscow denies any involvement in the disaster and has blamed
the Ukrainian military.
Television images of the rebel-controlled crash scene, where
the remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among
their personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrow
after Thursday's disaster into anger. The bodies had been
removed from much of the crash site by Sunday, with many placed
in refrigerated train wagons.
Abbott said an Australian investigation team of around a
dozen people, including police, was in Kiev but had been unable
to travel to the site. He said there had been some improvement
with the Ukrainian government offering access.
"But there's still a hell of a long way to go before anyone
could be satisfied with the way that site is being treated,"
Abbott said. "It's more like a garden clean-up than a forensic
investigation. This is completely unacceptable."
Australia is leading a push for a binding U.N. resolution
that demands those responsible be held accountable and that
armed groups don't compromise the crash site integrity.
Abbott is due to host Putin and other world leaders at the
G20 Leaders Summit in November and is facing mounting calls to
ban the Russian leader from participating. Abbott has said there
is still time for Russia to play its part in the international
community and support "a full and fearless" investigation.
(Reporting by Lincoln Feast and Jane Wardell; Editing by Mark