Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Mass at St Mary's in Sydney.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott attends Mass at St Mary's in Sydney. AAP Image - Nikki Short)

It may be weeks before MH17 victims' remains are returned

FAMILIES waiting for the return of their loved ones lost in the horrific shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 may have several weeks before the bodies are returned to Australia.

An international outpouring of mourning began on Saturday as the world came to terms with the loss of 298 people what is believed to be a terrorist attack.

Among those on board the flight, headed for Kuala Lumpur last week, were 28 Australians and eight other permanent residents, from all across the nation.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was vocal on Sunday in criticising any potential Russian involvement in the attack, which saw the plane shot down over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

He said attempts to establish a proper crash investigation site were already being "hampered" by rebels linked with Russian authorities involved in the uprising in the Ukraine.

Mr Abbott made the comments after earlier saying that Russia could not "wash its hands" of the crime, as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop leads meetings in the United States about the international response.

Ms Bishop, as the most senior Australian diplomatic leader as Australia chairs the United Nations Security Council, flew to New York on the weekend, to push for a full investigation of the crash.

The crash has reignited long-standing tensions between world powers Russia and the US, with Mr Abbott saying the Ukrainian Government was the "legitimate" government of the crash area, despite claims it was "disputed territory".

Mr Abbott on Sunday said due to potential interference in the crash site area, it could be weeks before bodies and remains could be recovered and returned to loved ones.

He said his focus was now on ensuring the remains of those killed in the crash were respected and were returned to Australia as quickly as possible.