After the crime of MH17 comes the cover-up, says Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says there has been “industrial scale” evidence-tampering at the site of the MH17 disaster in Ukraine.
Mr Abbott on Tuesday said while the success of an Australian-authored resolution in the UN Security Council was a good step forward, there was still a “long, long way to go” before the crash site was properly secured and justice was done.
“After the crime comes the cover-up,” he told reporters in Canberra.
“What we’ve seen is evidence-tampering on an industrial scale. Obviously, that has to stop.”
An Australian C-17 Globemaster plane will help transport bodies from the Ukraine city of Kharkiv to the Netherlands for identification, Mr Abbott said.
The prime minister noted Russian president Vladimir Putin had declared in the past 24 hours that everything possible must be done to provide security for international experts at the MH17 crash site.
“These are the words which he needs to live up to,” Mr Abbott said.
He gave his Russian counterpart credit for being “as good as his word” but said it was crucial those forensic experts were given the protection they needed to quickly start working.
The “painstaking and methodical process” of identifying the victims could take weeks, a process Mr Abbott acknowledged would be frustrating but important to get right.
“It would be terrible to compound families’ grief by risking the misidentification of their loved ones,” he said.
The prime minister believes security at the crash site should be provided by those countries whose citizens have been wronged in the disaster.
Unfortunately it had been trampled from the start and was now “more like a building demolition than a forensic investigation”.
“We haven’t just seen all sorts of random individuals roaming around the site, picking over remains, … we’ve seen heavy equipment coming onto the site,” Mr Abbott said.
The prime minister is yet to receive advice about whether the crash will be classified an act of terrorism, triggering compensation payments.
However, the government will be “erring on the side of generosity”.
Mr Abbott cautioned against “facile optimism” despite gains with the transportation of bodies and an apparent ceasefire.
“This could change at any time,” he said.
International pressure would ensure that the aftermath was “less tragic than the event itself”.
Mr Abbott said hopes his special envoy, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, will be on hand to help receive the bodies in Kharkiv and visit the crash site as soon as possible.