Tony Abbott will have a ‘robust conversation’ with Vladimir Putin, but has raised some doubt whether the Russian leader will attend the G20 summit.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has toned down his language on Russia, but still insists he will hold a “very robust conversation” with Vladimir Putin during the G20 summit.

However, Mr Abbott raised doubt about whether Mr Putin would attend the summit in Brisbane next month, saying the conversation would occur “should he come to Australia”.

The prime minister on Monday said he would “shirtfront” the president over Russia’s lack of co-operation with an investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which resulted in 298 people being killed including 38 Australians.

Mr Abbott on Tuesday declined to repeat the aggressive term when asked by reporters about his language.

“We are going to have a very, very robust conversation,” Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

“Plainly 38 innocent Australians were murdered. It wasn’t an accident. It was a crime.

“And it was a plane brought down by Russian-backed rebels using Russian-supplied equipment.”

The Russian embassy in Canberra said there had been no Australian government request for a bilateral meeting with Mr Putin.

Mr Abbott said his program for the G20 was still being finalised, but he expected Mr Putin would be available for a conversation “while he is a guest of Australia”.