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Australian leader lashes out at Russia

CANBERRA, Australia — An angry Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Friday demanded an independent inquiry into the downing of a Malaysian jetliner and said Russia’s response to what he called a crime was ‘‘deeply, deeply unsatisfactory.’’

Abbott criticized Russia’s Ambassador to Australia Vladimir Morozov, who met earlier Friday with Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

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According to Abbott, the ambassador’s initial response was to blame Ukraine for Thursday’s downing of the Malaysia Airlines aircraft, which killed all 298 aboard, including 28 Australians.

The cause of Thursday’s crash was not immediately clear but the area has seen heavy fighting recently between government troops and pro-Russia separatists, with the rebels bragging about shooting down two Ukrainian military jets in the region Wednesday, just a day earlier. U.S. intelligence officials believe the Malaysian plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Abbott told reporters that the idea that Russia can somehow say that none of this has anything to do with them because it happened in Ukrainian airspace ‘‘frankly does not stand up to any serious scrutiny.’’

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‘‘The initial response of the Russian ambassador was to blame Ukraine for this and I have to say that is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory,’’ he said. ‘‘I want to say to the Australian people that as far as I am concerned, when you have a situation where Russian-backed rebels appear to have killed Australians using it may well turn out to be Russian-supplied heavy weaponry, Australia takes a very dim view indeed and we want the fullest possible investigation.’’

Abbott said ‘‘it’s very important that we don’t allow Russia to prevent an absolutely comprehensive investigation so that we can find out exactly what happened here.’’

‘‘This is not an accident, it’s a crime,’’ he said. ‘‘And criminals should not be allowed to get away with what they've done. So there has to be a full, impartial international investigation and Russia should certainly not be allowed to stand in the way of that.’’

Asked why he was using harsher language than other world leaders in relation to Russia’s potential culpability, Abbott replied: ‘‘This aircraft didn’t come down through accident — it was shot down. It did not crash, it was downed ... over territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels.’’

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