Australia became the latest country to accuse Russia of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, when on Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott revealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Australian intelligence information points the finger directly at his country.
Abbott confronted Putin directly with the revelation at the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit conference in Beijing, China. With 38 Australians among the 298 victims of the July 17 Malaysia Airlines shootdown over eastern Ukraine, Abbott has been one of the most outspoken world leaders calling for Russia to own up to the disastrous MH17 downing.
In fact, speaking last month on Australian television, Abbott vowed to "shirtfront" Putin when he encountered him at the summit. "Shirtfront" is a term used in the sport of Australian Rules Football that essentially refers to a player ramming another in the chest with a lowered shoulder.
While much of the media coverage of the one-on-one meeting between Abbott and Putin, called specifically to discuss the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster, focused on whether or not the Australian prime minister actually did "shirtfront" Putin, with even the Dutch investigators who are leading the probe of the crash refusing to name Russia as the culprit, Abbott's direct accusation was the most important point to come out of meeting.
Until Tuesday, only the United States and Germany had gone on record saying that their own intelligence fingers the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine for shooting down the plane. Successfully targeting a commercial airliner such as Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, flying at about 35,000 feet in the air, would likely require a sophisticated missile launcher supplied by the rebels' Russian backers.
"MH17 was destroyed by a missile from a launcher that had come out of Russia, was fired from inside Eastern Ukraine and then returned to Russia," Abbott explicitly told Putin, according to an Australian spokesperson.
In Beijing Tuesday, Abbott demanded that Putin apologize for the shootdown of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, and Russia pay compensation to families of the victims.
Abbott cited the "precedent" of compensation paid by the United States after a U.S. warship shot down an Iranian civilian airliner with 290 people on board in 1988.
How Putin responded to Abbott's demand for cash payments to the Malaysia Airline Flight MH17 families or whether he plans to apologize was not revealed after the meeting. But it seems unlikely, since Russian state TV recently aired a documentary claiming to prove that a Ukrainian military fighter plane, not a Russian surface-to-air missile, actually shot down Flight MH17.