Prime Minister Tony Abbott as sent retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the man who led the thus-far unsuccessful Australian search for MH370 in the Indian Ocean, to Ukraine as his special envoy to lead Australia’s efforts on the ground in Ukraine to help recover, identify and repatriate Australians killed in the MH17 crash.
Houston will coordinate Australia’s consular, diplomatic, disaster and crash site investigation response from Kiev. The former head of defence will work with local and international authorities on consular support for families of Australian victims, identification and on the crash investigation itself.
The Australian Government has deployed 45 officials to assist, including 20 personnel from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, 20 Australian Federal Police Officers, two Australian Transport Safety Bureau investigators and three Defence officials.
The Australian Ambassador in Warsaw (who is accredited to Ukraine), a regional consular officer and embassy officials from Moscow, London and Warsaw, have also arrived in Kiev as part of Australia’s response team.
Other specialist teams are on standby for immediate deployment when access to the site is secured. A C17 military transport aircraft is on standby to depart for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister said Houston is “perfectly placed” to provide “the authority and reassurance we need”, giving his most recent role as chief coordinator of the Joint Agency Coordination Centre to find Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared without trace on March 8, with 239 people on board.
The 60,000 square kilometre search for MH370 in the southern Ocean continues and is expected to take several more months to complete.
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