Updated: 07/30/2014 10:16 | By Agence France-Presse

Australia focused on MH17 crash site, not sanctions: PM

Australia's priority was gaining access to the crash site of downed Flight MH17 in Ukraine, not imposing sanctions on Russia, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Wednesday.


Australia focused on MH17 crash site, not sanctions: PM

Flowers, left by parents of an Australian victim of the crash, lie on a piece of the Malaysia Airlines plane MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabove), in the Donetsk region, July 26, 2014 - by Bulent Kilic

The United States and Europe announced tough new sanctions targeting Russia's key financial, arms and energy sectors on Tuesday in response to Moscow's intervention in the Ukraine crisis.

But Australia said it already had some sanctions in place, having imposed travel bans and targeted financial sanctions in response to the Russian threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine in March.

"I am not saying that we might not, at some point in the future, move further," Abbott told reporters.

"But at the moment our focus is not on sanctions, our focus is on bringing home our dead as quickly as we humanly can."

Abbott's comment came after fighting between Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists on Tuesday prevented international investigators from reaching the MH17 crash site for the third day.

More than 200 bodies have already been removed from the site, but a Dutch and Australian police mission wants to recover the remains of those victims still lying in the fields.

"We certainly want to have another go today to get access to the site," Abbott said.

"If it doesn't happen today we will try again tomorrow, if it doesn't happen tomorrow we will try again the next day."

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was carrying 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was apparently shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17.

The Netherlands and Australia were home to most of the citizens on the flight, which the West alleged was brought down by separatist rebels.

Abbott said the situation on the ground was "very fluid".

"We don't take sides in the geopolitical contests of eastern Europe, at least at this time," Abbott said. 

"All we want to do is to bring home our dead. We want to get in, we want to get cracking, we want to get out."

"As things stand, we expect to have another go at it today."

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