Russia’s prime minister says Tony Abbott should choose his words carefully following the diplomatic row over a threat to shirtfront Vladimir Putin.

The Russian prime minister has entered the fray over Tony Abbott’s threat to shirtfront President Vladimir Putin in Brisbane.

Mr Abbott grabbed global headlines for his tough talk ahead of the Russian leader’s expected attendance at the Group of 20 meeting next month.

He backed away from the aggressive sports term on Tuesday but insisted he would hold robust talks with Mr Putin over the “murder” of 38 Australians when the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down over eastern Ukraine.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a warning to Mr Abbott during an interview with US television network CNBC.

“If he likes to use sports terms, let him go ahead,” he said through a translator.

“Mr Putin is quite adept at sports and they could have forceful debates. That said, serious politicians should choose their words carefully.”

Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Mr Abbott’s comment was “unfortunate” and he hoped the two leaders could exchange views “in a more diplomatic way”.

Mr Putin is yet to officially confirm he is attending the meeting.

However, Mr Peskov said there was “no obstacle” to Mr Putin taking part, and the two leaders would have the opportunity to exchange their views – “preferably in a more diplomatic way”.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said Australians would find it difficult to welcome the Russian leader.

The Russian government’s denial of any culpability over the MH17 plane crash was “deeply troubling”.

“They have not used their influence with those (Ukraine separatist) rebels to allow proper access to the crash site,” she told ABC Radio.