Ukraine’s parliament has voted overwhelmingly in support of giving Dutch and Australian officers the legal authority to lead the MH17 investigations.
The door is open for Australian Federal Police officers to carry weapons in Ukraine, but Foreign Minister Julie Bishop insists those heading to the MH17 crash site will not be armed.
Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in support of giving Dutch and Australian officers the legal authority to lead the forensic investigation at the crash site.
Ms Bishop said the vote had given the Dutch and Australian police teams an “insurance policy” by allowing them to carry weapons.
“If necessary – only if necessary – both the Dutch and the Australian personnel can bring arms into the country,” she told reporters in Kiev.
“But we are not taking arms onto the site. Our convoy will not be armed. It’s a police-led humanitarian mission.”
Ms Bishop thanked the Ukrainian government for recalling its parliament for the vote.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for,” she said.
Ukraine’s backing means Australia can use expert equipment and resources such as sniffer dogs in their investigation when they eventually gain access to the crash site.
Investigators were forced to abandon their mission for a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday because of clashes close to the site where the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down, killing all 298 people on board, including up to 39 Australian citizens and residents.
Ms Bishop has been offered assurances by Ukraine that a ceasefire can be struck so forensic teams can reach the site, where it’s understood about 80 bodies remain.
It’s hoped this further breakthrough with Ukraine’s parliament will allow a full convoy of investigators to access the crash site and begin work safely by Friday.
Ms Bishop said Australia was determined to access the site so the remaining bodies could be collected with “some dignity” and returned to grieving families.