Australia PM Tony Abbott Says Focus on MH17 Recovery, Not More Sanctions to Russia

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By Reissa Su | July 31, 2014 4:24 PM EST

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared he is more concerned about the recovery of bodies from the MH17 crash site in Ukraine than imposing more sanctions on Russia. Mr Abbott said Australia's priority was getting access to the site under the separatists' control.

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
Cows graze near the wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces, on July 17. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

The U.S. and Europe have declared their tough stance in penalising Russia's key financial sectors including arms and energy industries in response to President Vladimir Putin's intervention in the Ukraine conflict.

Although Australia said it had some sanctions in place including a travel ban to Russia, Mr Abbott said that he would like to focus on more on bringing home the bodies of Australian victims of the downed Malaysian aircraft as quickly as possible.

Reports said more than 200 bodies were already recovered from the MH17 wreckage but Dutch and Australian police have decided to recover the remains of others still on the site.

The risk of tension was previously raised when the prime minister had announced he will send troops to Ukraine to help secure the crash site. Mr Abbott it was solely a police mission despite the involvement of Australian Defence Force members. He described the Operation Bring Them Home as a humanitarian mission and nothing more.

The prime minister did not discount the element of risk involved in an area controlled by separatists. He said the government is prepared to take the risk to bring home the dead to their families.

The U.S. had previously told the Abbott government that it was prepared to provide assistance in recovering the victims' remains and evidence at the MH17 crash site if asked. However, Netherlands and Australia did not take the opportunity to request for U.S. assistance to avoid increasing the already "intense" political tension between the U.S. and Russia.

Mr Abbott is determined to aid in the recovery of bodies and collection of evidence from the Malaysia jet that was shot down from the sky on July 17 near Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. No one among the 298 people aboard the plane survived the crash including the 28 Australian passengers.

A public memorial service was held for the 298 victims of MH17 at St Paul's Cathedral in Melbourne on July 24.

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(Photo: REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin / )
Cows graze near the wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 26, 2014. Nearly 300 people, 193 of them Dutch citizens, were killed when the Malaysia Airlines plane en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was brought down in eastern Ukraine, where separatists are battling government forces, on July 17. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
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