JULIE BISHOP: We remain committed to our mission and today we will again seek access to the crash site. We recognise that we are in the middle of a war zone and that there is a constantly moving, fast changing environment here. There’s a military conflict between Ukrainian military forces and the various separatist groups backed by the Russians.
Our personnel are working around the clock on operational matters. There is an extraordinary effort underway by the Dutch teams and the Australian teams, so that we can consider every alternative, every option to gaining access to the site. Yesterday I met with the Ukrainian Defence Minister, the Acting Prime Minister and made it clear to the Ukrainian Government again that we must have access to the site by way of a humanitarian corridor and there must be a ceasefire that will enable us to get onto the site and complete our work and get off the site and that must happen every day. So we are continuing to explore all options. Today I am visiting the Red Cross here in Kyiv. We understand that a large amount of personal belongings are now being held at the morgue in Donetsk and our AFP are helping co-ordinate an operation to remove the belongings from Donetsk and transfer them to the Netherlands.
We recognise the importance of personal effects to the families and next of kin of those who were killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash. So this is part of our humanitarian mission and I am visiting the Red Cross to offer Australia’s support to ensure that we can transfer the personal belongings from the morgue in Donetsk to the Netherlands.
JOURNALIST: You must be getting frustrated with the lack of ceasefire on both sides?
JULIE BISHOP: We recognise that this is a war zone but we remain committed to our mission, we will not be deterred and every day we will seek access to the site. We won’t put our teams in unnecessary harm but we are determined to access the site and fulfil the terms of UN Security Council resolution 2166, that gave us a mandate to get onto the site, to retrieve the bodies and the remains and to gather the evidence necessary for the investigation to determine who was responsible for this atrocious act.
JOURNALIST: From an Australian point of view, how effective can sanctions led by the US and EU have in terms of influencing Russia and therefore the rebels?
JULIE BISHOP: We also want to influence Russia to use its influence on the separatists who are engaged in this ever-changing military conflict with Ukrainian troops. But our focus at present is on the humanitarian mission and so while the European Union and the United States are working on sanctions, the Australian mission is humanitarian. We are here for the purpose of retrieving the bodies and the remains and the personal belongings and gathering the evidence for the investigation. We will not be here for a day longer than we have to be.
JOURNALIST: How long do you keep on trying though to reach that crash site as this war continues to escalate? Isn’t there a time maybe that you will have to stop because it is simply too dangerous for those officers?
JULIE BISHOP: We assess this every day. Overnight our operational teams worked closely together, Dutch and Australian, we have access into Ukrainian military thinking we are talking to the Government and we are trying to gather the most detailed picture day-by-day and of course we work so closely with OSCE, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. And this is the organisation on the ground, they have 50 monitors throughout eastern Ukraine and they assess the situation, hour-by-hour, day-by-day and we rely on their advice. So it’s a decision that we make every day and it’s under constant review and our teams are working around the clock. It is the most extraordinary effort – the coordination between the Dutch and the Australians would have to be unprecedented.
JOURNALIST: Is the Australian government considering dropping the invitation to Vladimir Putin to attend the G20?
JULIE BISHOP: Phil, this is… our focus today here in Ukraine is on getting access to the site. All those issues are down the track. Let’s complete this mission first and then we will worry about the consequences.
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