Tony Abbott has indicated he won’t hold back on Russian leader Vladimir Putin, vowing to ‘shirtfront’ him when he arrives at the G20 summit.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott will “shirtfront” Vladimir Putin over the MH17 disaster when the Russian leader attends the G20 summit in Brisbane.
Mr Abbott has imposed trade bans on Russia and expressed his anger over Russia’s support for separatists who shot down the Malaysia Airlines flight, resulting in the deaths of 298 people including 38 Australians.
But after consulting with other G20 members, Mr Abbott said Mr Putin wouldn’t be banned from the economic leaders’ summit next month.
As the G20 is an international organisation which works on consensus, Australia does not have the right to bar any member from attending, Mr Abbott said.
Labor leader Bill Shorten said he would not give the time of day to Mr Putin.
But Mr Abbott, who will host the summit, says it is better to engage his Russian counterpart.
“I’m going to shirtfront Mr Putin,” the prime minister said on Monday.
“I’m going to be saying to Mr Putin, Australians were murdered. They were murdered by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment.”
He said he would also be demanding Russia co-operate with the criminal investigation and if evidence is sought it should be provided.
Mr Shorten said there was plenty of evidence pointing to Russian involvement in the July 17 downing of MH17 over eastern Ukraine.
“It was an act of murder,” Mr Shorten told reporters in Melbourne.
“How is it that the President of the Russian Federation, Putin, can thumb his nose at the rest of the world, go wherever he wants, without there being any repercussions or any co-operation with the independent investigation as to how this happened?”
Mr Putin knew more about the plane tragedy than he had let on so far, he said.
“I happen to think that when you deal with an international bully, the way you do it isn’t by laying out the red carpet. So no, I don’t think he’s welcome, I don’t think most Australians want him here.”
Asked whether Mr Abbott should meet with Mr Putin, the Labor leader said: “No.”
“I wouldn’t give him the time of day,” Mr Shorten said.
Treasurer Joe Hockey had confirmed Mr Putin’s attendance at the weekend when speaking with Russia’s finance minister.
He said that while the consensus among G20 members was that the Russian President should attend, he expected there to be “full and frank dialogue”.
The G20 is an economic forum but previous summits have discussed global security issues such as Syria.
Mr Abbott’s comments sparked an angry response in the Russian online news site Pravda, which called him insolent.
“I would advise Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to wash his hands carefully and sterilise them after shaking the paw offered to him by Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott at the forthcoming G20 Summit in Brisbane,” a Pravda column says.
“It is not about Ebola virus disease, it is about the disease called insolence and Australia’s colonial chip on its shoulder.”