Bishop remains in Kiev to continue lobbying Ukrainian politicians | Asia Pacific

Bishop remains in Kiev to continue lobbying Ukrainian politicians

Bishop remains in Kiev to continue lobbying Ukrainian politicians

Updated 31 July 2014, 12:27 AEST

Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine has again prevented Australian and Dutch investigators from reaching the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight 17.

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop is still in Kiev, where she's been lobbying Ukrainian politicians ahead of tomorrow's special session of parliament.

Ms Bishop is hoping MPs will vote to give control of the crash site to the Dutch, and to ratify an agreement that would allow Australians to carry weapons if necessary.

Interviewer: Chris Uhlmann

Speakers: Julie Bishop, Australia's foreign minister

JULIE BISHOP: Our team is desperate to access the crash site to retrieve the remains. But, we've now been informed that there could be the remains of up to 80 bodies on the site and so that has just made us even more resolute in our determination to access the site.

It's heart-breaking; it's so distressing. We have the team in place, we have the experts ready to work and we can't get to the site, but there's a full-scale war going on. The parties are using heavy weapons; there's artillery and missiles and while the political leadership give us assurances of a humanitarian corridor and a ceasefire, on the ground it is so complex. It's fast moving, it's ever changing, there are many forces at play - the Ukrainian army, the multiple separatist groups and Russia and my great fear is Russia is actively undermining this process.

We've had the strongest possible support from Ukrainian government, but still the fighting goes on and there is no ceasefire.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Isn't part of the problem in that part of the world though at the moment, that the Ukrainian government is trying to press an advantage that it sees against the rebels?

JULIE BISHOP: The Ukrainian government has a military objective and that is to retain its sovereignty and obviously take back territory that was filled by the separatists, but they have been offering us a lot of support for a humanitarian corridor and a ceasefire, but we sent out reconnoitres in the morning; we send out a team in advance and they get halfway down the road, maybe a quarter of the way down the road, sometimes three-quarters of the way down the road - we tried this three days in a row - and then the shelling starts and whilst I can't point the finger at who starts the shelling, we get the absolute assurances from the Ukraine government that it's not them.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Can you expand a bit then on your fears about Russia? Of course the United States has said that shelling is coming from the Russian side of the border so what are you being told?

JULIE BISHOP: We have briefings, not only for our own intelligence people here but from others, and the picture that is being put together is of missiles coming from the Russian side and there are ways and means of experts assessing that and the separatists are heavily armed. I mean they've got artillery; they've got missiles. You don't buy this stuff in a 7-11.

They have got very sophisticated weaponry and they're using it.

CHRIS UHLMANN: So the Prime Minister has been in touch regularly Vladimir Putin. Is the Russian president lying to the Australian Prime Minister?

JULIE BISHOP: The Prime Minister hasn't spoken to president Putin for a little while now, but on the occasions that he has, president Putin says that he's committed to ensuring that our workers can get onto the site. Well, we've now tried four days in a row and we can't get onto the site and this is heartbreaking.

Tomorrow I am hoping that we will reach an important milestone in our time here and that is when a resolution regarding the Dutch and Australian presence here is debated in the parliament and passed and that's important but what's even more important is for us to get access to the site.

CHRIS UHLMANN: Are you concerned about reports now that the road has been mined and that's the roadway to the site?

JULIE BISHOP: I don't know that those reports are confirmed. We've certainly heard of them. If that is true, it is utterly despicable. That's utterly, utterly unacceptable.

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