Australia could ask European and American allies to help with a mass diplomatic retaliation against Russia, if Moscow refused to accept responsibility for shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, an atrocity which killed 298 innocents, including 38 Australians citizens and residents.
The push is likely to poison relations with Russia even further after Moscow’s Ambassador to Australia on Sunday angrily denied Russia’s role in the atrocity.
Ambassador Grigory Logvinov accused Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Foreign Minister Julie Bishop of speaking in “a prosecutorial manner” while relying on a report which was preordained to blame Russia and was based on “fakes, forgeries and primitive fabrications”.
Australia and the Netherlands accused the Russian Federation on Friday of being directly involved in the downing of MH17 on July 17, 2014, following the release of a report conducted by the Joint Investigation Team, which included Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine.
The report concludes that the BUK missile system used to shoot down the airliner belonged to the 53rd Brigade of the Russian army. The missile system was taken from Russia to eastern Ukraine and immediately back to Russia after the atrocity.
“Based on these findings, the only conclusion we can reasonably now draw is that Russia was directly involved in the downing of MH17,” Ms Bishop and Mr Turnbull said in a statement, adding they had contacted the Russians and were seeking talks, likely to focus on reparations and handing over those responsible for prosecution under international law.
Because the countries involved have little diplomatic clout, either as individuals or collectively against a nation the size of Russia, senior security sources confirmed to The Australian Financial Review that should Russia continue to refuse to obfuscate, Australia and others would seek the help of more powerful allies to bring pressure to bear.
“All options are there,” said a source. “There’s no impact if we went it alone. We will need out allies to back up if necessary.”
In March, relations with Russia nosedived when the the Turnbull government expelled two Russian diplomats in solidarity with Great Britain over the over the use of a nerve agent to try and kill former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, in Salisbury, England.
Australia joined the action along with more than 20 other nations including the United States and NATO countries in Europe.
A source said a similar alliance would be sought by Australia, the Netherlands and others should the Russians continue to refuse to accept responsibility for MH17.
“With Russia its always deny, deny, dent, and say ‘that’s not us’,” the source said.
As anticipated, Mr Logvinov issued an angry statement questioning the legitimacy of the investigation.
“Despite of everything, all our efforts to commence a serious, solid and professional joint work are rejected out of hand,” he said.
“There is a well known style, a rough, clumsy algorithm. Dirty provocations are organised, and the guilty side is determined in advance.
“The so called “investigation” is conducted almost completely on the basis of information from social networks and several international non-governmental organisations, which have tainted themselves long ago by fakes, forgeries, primitive fabrications and so on.”
He rejected the findings of the JIT, as he did the allegations Russia had poisoned the Skripals and were complicit in recent chemical weapon attacks on civilians in Syria.
He likened it to the fake intelligence that was put together by the United States in 2003 to justify the invasion of Iraq.
“Substantial legal, physical and other data, contesting all this fakes, are blatantly rejected and ignored,” he said.
“This unworthy style is clearly observed in the so-called Skripal’s case, Syrian chemical dossier, and previously, in the fabrication of pretexts for military invasion to Yugoslavia and Iraq.”
Mr Logvinov said there had been various theories as to the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 which disappeared over the Indian Ocean but no such doubt over MH17.
“Therefore, we obviously see double standards, which only confirm that we are dealing with preliminary planned provocation, and MH17 passengers, including Australian citizens, are its victims,” he said.
“Russia will continue to provide assistance so that the truth about the crash of flight MH17 is established, and the true perpetrators are brought to justice.
“However it is time to get rid of the illusion that someone can speak with us in such a prosecutorial manner and expect that we will resignedly accept these unsubstantiated allegations.”
The incident comes at a time relations with China are also at a low over Beijing’s resentment at efforts to curb foreign interference in Australia.
A security source said Russia and China both posed significant threats to Australia in terms of foreign interference but for different reasons.
“Russia does these things purely to disrupt, other countries, like China, do it to influence policy to their own benefit,” the source said.