Australia on Thursday said it was tracking four Russian naval vessels off its north coast, with relations between the two nations strained after the downing of Flight MH17 in Ukraine. The appearance of the fleet coincides with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s arrival at the G20 summit in Brisbane, and follows a highly-anticipated exchange between the Russian president and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott at APEC in Beijing this week. The downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in July in rebel-held eastern Ukraine saw 298 deaths, including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Defence is monitoring Russian naval vessels that are currently transiting through international waters to the north of Australia.
An Australian Defence Force statement
The Russian navy has previously been deployed in conjunction with major international summits, such as the APEC meeting in Singapore in 2009. Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Russia was entitled to have ships in international waters, but said they were being closely tracked. “I understand that these ships are part of an expedition in international waters. It’s not unexpected. Russia is entitled, as any other country is entitled, to traverse international waters,” she told reporters. But Ms Bishop declined to comment when asked if it was a show of force.
It’s like saying when the United States is in the Pacific – is it a show of force? It’s a significant country with a significant navy. When Australia heads up through the international waters in Southeast Asia and North Asia is that a show of force?
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop