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BRISBANE, Australia — Vladimir Putin is underlining his presence at a major summit of world leaders in Australia by stationing four warships in waters off the country's northeastern coast. The diplomatic drama, which has been simmering since a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over an area of Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists in July, threatened to overshadow Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's goal of keeping this weekend's G-20 summit focused on economic growth.
Abbott had previously said he would physically confront the Russian president over the Flight 17 disaster that killed 298 people. Australia, in turn, sent three warships of its own to monitor the Russian vessels. The Russian embassy said on Friday that Kremlin's Pacific fleet was testing its range, and could be used as security for Putin. Abbott was not impressed. "Russia is being much more assertive now than it has been for a very long time," he said at a press conference. "Interestingly, Russia's economy is declining even as Russia's assertiveness is increasing." Abbott, who met with Putin earlier this week on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing, also aired details of his conversation with the Russian leader. "One of the points that I tried to make to President Putin is that Russia would be so much more attractive if it was aspiring to be a superpower for peace and freedom and prosperity ... instead of trying to recreate the lost glories of tsarism or the old Soviet Union," he said.
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