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Published: Thursday July 24, 2014 MYT 3:35:02 PM
Updated: Thursday July 24, 2014 MYT 3:36:17 PM

Australia ready to send police to help guard Ukraine crash site

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia is ready to send police to Ukraine as part of an international team to secure the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said on Wednesday, and has dispatched 50 officers to London on standby.

Abbott said that he had spoken with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin about ensuring safe access for the officers, who would be tasked with securing the crash site for investigators.

On Tuesday, Abbott said that Russian-backed rebels who control the area were tampering with evidence on "an industrial scale" and argued that outside police or possibly military force was needed to ensure that did not continue.

"We want to deploy them as quickly as possible because right now there could well be remains exposed to the European summer, exposed to the ravages of heat and animals," Abbott told reporters in Canberra.

"So the quicker we can deploy a team, the quicker we can conduct a thorough search, the better."

The Boeing 777 was shot down last week in eastern Ukraine en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board. Twenty eight Australians were killed.

(Reporting by Matt Siegel; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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