UN demands access to MH17 crash site

2014-07-21 22:28
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard near a piece of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Grabove, in the region of Donetsk. (Bukent Kilic, AFP)

An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard near a piece of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Grabove, in the region of Donetsk. (Bukent Kilic, AFP)

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New York - With the backing of Russia, the UN Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet and demanded crash site access in rebel-held east Ukraine.

Australia took the lead in drafting the strongly-worded resolution that was adopted after some changes were made to satisfy Moscow.

The measure called for a full, independent international investigation of the Malaysia Airlines plane disaster that left 298 dead and demanded that those responsible be held accountable.

"We must have answers. We must have justice," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the 15-member Council.

It called on all countries in the region to cooperate with the probe, an appeal that implicitly targeted Russia which stands accused of supporting the separatist rebels in east Ukraine.

"We welcome Russia's support for today's resolution, but no resolution would have been necessary had Russia used its leverage with the separatists on Thursday, getting them to lay down their arms and leave the site to international experts," said US Ambassador Samantha Power.

Power urged Russia to take decisive action to get the investigation off the ground and to push for a settlement in east Ukraine where rebels have taken up arms against Kiev.

"If Russia is not part of the solution, it will continue to be part of the problem," she said.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is believed to have been blown out of the sky on Thursday by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Among the dead are 193 Dutch citizens and 28 Australian nationals.

The resolution demanded that all military activities, including by armed groups, be "immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation."

Russia demands changes

Russia insisted on changes to the wording of the resolution to clarify that Ukraine will take part in the investigation but not take the lead role, which will be played by the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

Moscow also sought to change the term "shooting down" of the plane for "downing", arguing that it amounted to prejudging the outcome of the investigation.

World leaders have demanded Russian President Vladimir Putin use his influence to persuade the rebels to hand over the remains of the victims and allow full access to the crash site.

With global fury mounting over the limited access given to crash investigators, the insurgents blamed for hampering the probe struck a breakthrough deal with Malaysia on Monday to hand over two black boxes recovered from the plane wreckage.

A first train loaded with some 280 bodies was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held station four days after the crash.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans who flew to New York to attend the Security Council session expressed outrage over the delays in securing the crash site.

"Til the day I die I will not understand how it is possible that it would take us days to get an act of human decency together which is simply to be able to gather the remains in a respectful way, bring them to a morgue and bring them back home," Timmermans told a news conference ahead of the session.

Read more on:    un  |  russia  |  ukraine  |  mh17
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