Putin cannot avoid me: Australia PM

Putin cannot avoid me: Australia PM
File photo of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

SYDNEY- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday warned Vladimir Putin he will not be able to avoid a "conversation" over the loss of Australian lives in the downing of Flight MH17 over Ukraine.

Last month Abbott vowed to "shirtfront" the Russian president at the G20 summit in Brisbane next week.

Shirtfronting is an Australian Rules Football sporting term in which a player charges an opponent.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev responded to the rhetoric by saying Putin was a judo black-belt and that "serious politicians should chose their words carefully".

"He won't be able to avoid the conversation, so one way or another we're going to have the bilateral - whether it's in the corridor or in a more formal setting," Abbott, a former university boxer himself, told The Australian newspaper.

In Moscow, Putin's spokesman confirmed on Thursday that Putin and Abbott would meet on the sidelines of the summit.

"A separate meeting has not been agreed upon," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the state news agency RIA Novosti.

"But since Australia is hosting the G20 summit of course there will be an opportunity to speak on the sidelines." Abbott said he did not want the G20 to be overshadowed by their rift, with government sources saying the pair could instead meet at the prior APEC summit in Beijing starting on Monday.

Peskov did not rule out a meeting at the APEC summit.

"What I won't be doing is disrupting the sessions of the G20 with a private argument between Australia and Russia," Abbott said.

"But I am seeking a bilateral with him at the earliest possible opportunity, which will be a chance to emphasise how important it is to Australia - and indeed to The Netherlands, Malaysia and all the other countries that had people on MH17 - that there be full co-operation with the investigation.

"And if criminal prosecutions loom, full co-operation with them." The Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down over eastern Ukraine in July, killing all 298 people on board. Most of the dead were Dutch but 38 Australian citizens and residents also perished.

Australia - along with the United States - accuses Russian-backed rebels of shooting down the flight using a missile supplied by Moscow.

Russia has repeatedly denied the claim and pointed the finger at Kiev.

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