MH17: Abbott sends Gov-Gen to receive Australian victims

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference on the MH17 disaster. Photo / AP
Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference on the MH17 disaster. Photo / AP

Australian Governor-General Peter Cosgrove is travelling to the Netherlands to receive the bodies of the Australians killed in the MH17 disaster.

A train carrying the remains of the victims recovered from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane reached the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday night.

The bodies will soon be transferred to the Netherlands for identification and eventual repatriation.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he has asked Sir Peter to travel to the Netherlands. He will be there for the arrival of Dutch and Australian aircraft carrying the remains.

"It is important for the families and for our nation that our people be received by one of our own," Mr Abbott said in a statement on Wednesday.

Mr Abbott says the identification of bodies could take some time. "The task of identifying the victims is a process that must be conducted carefully and accurately," he said.

"By its very nature, it may take some weeks before we can honour the dead by returning them to those they loved and those that loved them. But we will bring them home."

Mr Abbott says the government will transport victims' families to the Netherlands to accompany their loved ones home, if they so wish.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Russian President Vladimir Putin should have acted sooner to secure the crime scene at the crash site of MH17.

It's taken days after the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine for Mr Putin to tell separatists to co-operate with international investigators.

"This is what President Putin should have done from the outset," Ms Bishop told Sky News from New York.

Mr Putin's move follows a unanimous United Nations Security Council vote for a resolution demanding international access to the site.

Ms Bishop says she's been advised that things have progressed since the vote and Australian experts will soon have access to the crash site.

Watch: Remains reach Ukraine-held city

Russian-backed separatists have hampered investigations, blocking access to the site and reportedly tampering with evidence. It was days before the first international experts were granted access to the area.

Australian experts would join the team working to identify bodies in the Netherlands. The process could involve collecting DNA from the families back home, Ms Bishop said.

"Sadly we do have expertise in this, particularly after the Bali bombings," Ms Bishop said.

Up to 39 Australian citizens and residents were among the nearly 300 people killed when MH17 was shot down in eastern Ukraine.

The focus now was finding out who was responsible for the crash, Ms Bishop said.

"We have been of the view for some time, we know how this occurred and there will be more evidence to back that conclusion," Ms Bishop told the Nine Network.

"But we need to determine who is responsible."

- AAP

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