News / Asia

Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

FILE - Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference in Sydney, Australia, July 19, 2014.
FILE - Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott speaks during a press conference in Sydney, Australia, July 19, 2014.

Australia's prime minister is alleging a "cover-up" amid tampering of evidence at the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies the crashed plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials.

Prime minister Abbott says Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, has so far been “as good as his word” by approving a U.N. Security Council resolution guaranteeing safe access for international monitors at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
But Abbott, speaking to reporters in Canberra, complains about what has been happening amid the bodies and wreckage before investigators arrived.

He describes the most recent video from the scene as looking like a “building demolition.”

“After the crime, comes the cover-up. What we have seen is evidence of tampering on an industrial scale and obviously that has to stop,” he said.

Black boxes

Malaysian officials have taken possession of the downed plane's cockpit voice recorder and flight data recorder. They were handed over by pro-Russia separatists who control the area where the Boeing 777 came down in pieces last Thursday. All 298 people aboard died.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak negotiated directly via telephone with a rebel leader to arrange the hand over of the aircraft’s so-called black boxes. He also says the agreement includes releasing all human remains and full access to the site by an international team.

"Only then can the investigation into MH17 truly begin; only then can the victims be afforded the respect they deserve," he said.

A White House spokesman, reacting to the Malaysian leader’s active engagement with the separatists in Ukraine, called it “entirely understandable” considering the circumstances.

Blaming separatists, Russia

Malaysia lost 44 citizens (including 15 crew members) on the plane. The Netherlands had 198 of its citizens on the plane. At least 27 Australians were on the flight.

Those countries are joining the United States and Ukraine in blaming the crash on a surface-to-air missile fired by separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The degree of Russia’s responsibility and involvement in a possible cover-up are being intensely discussed in the diplomatic and intelligence communities.

Russia’s ambassador to Malaysia, Lyudmila Vorobyeva, on Tuesday denied any such involvement of her government or that of the separatists.

"The rebels do not possess any defense systems that are capable of shooting a plane at the altitude of ten kilometers. They do not have this kind of systems. Russia has never supplied this kind of system," said Vorobyeva.

The ambassador says the West is playing games - “blaming someone and accusing some parties without any evidence.”

After the ambassador’s remarks to reporters, several hundred protesters - organized by the youth wing of Malaysia’s largest political party (UMNO), gathered outside the Russian Embassy.

Placard-waiving demonstrators chanted “we want justice.”

Carrier's future in doubt

The downing of Flight 17 is the second tragedy this year for Malaysia and its flag carrier. Its Flight 370, from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, vanished on March 8 after veering far off course and no trace of it has been found.

The back-to-back disasters have aviation analysts expressing skepticism the state-owned carrier will survive for long in its present form after three previous government bailouts.

The airline finds itself confronting fresh outage after confirming that one of its passenger jets flew over another war zone, Syria, just days after the MH17 disaster.

Flight 4 from London to Kuala Lumpur re-routed over Syria on Sunday following the closure of its usual path over Ukraine.

The airline, in a statement, says the route, was approved by the International Civil Aviation Organization and not was not restricted airspace.

That is the same explanation the airline had following the shoot-down of Flight 17.

  • A guard rides on a train carrying the remains of victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17 downed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine as it arrives in the city of Kharkiv, under Kyiv's control, July 22, 2014.
  • Police officers secure a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as it arrives at a Kharkiv factory for a stop, July 22, 2014.
  • An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard as OSCE monitors and a team of Malaysian air crash investigators inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near Hrabove, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
  • A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
  • Two KLM cabin crew reach out into a sea of flowers at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, July 22, 2014.
  • Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a plastic bag at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 21, 2014.
  • Malaysian diplomats stand as Ukrainian President Petro Porosheko expresses his condolences outside the Malaysian Embassy in Kyiv, July 21, 2014.
  • A paramedic walks in charred debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • Toys and flowers are placed on the charred fuselage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • A girl holding a candle squats next to candles forming MH17 during an event to mourn the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 20, 2014.
  • Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather the remains of victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • A resident stands near flowers and mementos placed at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Rozspyne in the Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.




Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

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Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
July 22, 2014 6:57 PM
The Australin PM sees the particular situation at the crash site quite well. Reports in the media indicate that some large pieces have been driven away... as expected, those pieces will be reworked, and then will magically reapear/be returned, probably demonstrating either an internal critical component failure, or even an internally originated explosion. In my opinion, enough waters will be muddied with the remenants of the aircraft, to give some of the usual EU apologists a way out, so that nothing further needs to be done = findings inconclusive, too many opposing issues, leading to many potential possible causes, including not rulling a missile in or out.

by: Marcus
July 22, 2014 1:58 PM
Russia should be removed from its seat at the United Nations until such time as those responsible for shooting down the Malaysian aircraft, are put on trial at the Hague. The responsibility for this extradition must rest with Russia. The choice is theirs.

by: Common Sense from: US
July 22, 2014 10:40 AM
The Russian's actions remind me of a small child who spilled his milk at the table and then denies responsibility, even though all of the adults witnessed the accident. Leadership requires integrity and accountability for ones actions.
In Response

by: Common Sense from: US
July 22, 2014 2:41 PM
I am unable to draw a correlation from that statement. Are you suggesting politicians in the US are somehow related to this topic of discussion or are you just using this forum to address an unrelated issue? I personally don't stand on either side of the aisle.

Regardless of an obvious campaign by some to blur reality and create an atmosphere of doubt, the totality of facts and circumstances in this situation are already crystal clear. The delays and antics of “rebels” at the scene of the crime only helps to solidify this point. Does leadership in Russia have the strength and integrity to move these people away from damage control mode and stand before the world to admit mistakes were made?
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 22, 2014 12:40 PM
Is that why Obama and the Democrats always blamed Bush, for their incompetence?

by: Citizen 213212432 from: Earth
July 22, 2014 9:48 AM
The one-sided accusation is not surprising in light of their long-time stance on the crisis in eastern Ukraine, and their attitude towards Russia’s absorption of Crimea in March. But without convincing evidence, jumping to a conclusion will only heighten regional tension and is not conducive to finding out the truth.

Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday said it is Ukraine that bears the responsibility as the tragedy occurred over its territory. The tragedy, Putin said, could have been avoided should Ukraine’s eastern regions be in peace.
In Response

by: Crabbieappleton from: Neverwhere
July 22, 2014 12:04 PM
Of course. All armed separatists should be given what they want.

I will remember Putin's advice the next time he wants sympathy for anything than happens as a result of Chechnya.
In Response

by: John from: Ether
July 22, 2014 10:58 AM
"Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday said it is Ukraine that bears the responsibility as the tragedy occurred over its territory."

Excellent!! Then I can let my dog take his morning constitutional on Vladamir's lawn and not have to accept responsibility......not my lawn.

by: John from: USA
July 22, 2014 9:47 AM
Where is the proof of 'Coverup'?
In Response

by: Brasso from: Canberra
July 23, 2014 9:30 PM
Separatist members used a diesel chainsaw to open up the cockpit in order to get the flight recorders. All this well before any attempt to seal off the area, search or collect remains. If its not an attempt to pervert the course of justice, then its a bloody good imitation!

by: Baldur Dasche from: Bulgaria
July 22, 2014 9:38 AM
Where's the proof? Liker the noise coming out of Kyiv - they at least have a war on - there is very little evidence to back up the charges flying about Putin, Russian involvement, or even who did it.

The PM of Australia has his biases, they're evident again. For a world statesman, he leaves himself very little wiggle room and no credibility if the story we've been fed about this tragedy turns out to be wrong. The hysterics in Kyiv have been demonstrably wrong in many of their claims and assertions.

Making up your mind because of an emotional reaction may be natural, but it indicates a disconnect of the mental from the limbic system, a massive fail in a leader' anywhere. Hopefully not an Aussie trait.
In Response

by: dwwaddell from: Houston, TX
July 22, 2014 11:09 AM
Is this BUK missile launcher that shot down MH17 being smuggled back to Russia: Motorist captures military truck carrying BUK M1 in border town? From the Daily Mail

by: Wycliffe Nzioki from: Nairobi
July 22, 2014 9:20 AM
Should the victimised countries keep relying on investigation or rather demand the masterminds be brought to justice after investigations.Justice including waring them (Russia-Putin and his crook boys-rebels)

by: Riquin from: US
July 22, 2014 8:04 AM
Putin needs to resign, Russia needs a better government. Putin lives in the past with friends like Castro, etc. The new Russian generation needs a responsible leader to move Russia economically, currently Russia has a lot of economic problems and now we see Putin losing control of recalcitrant subjects as we see and it is demonstrated by the assassination of civilian travelers flying the plane destroyed by a Russian missile.


In Response

by: Alexander from: Russia
July 23, 2014 2:17 AM
We're proud to have such president as Mr. Putin. You got no idea what you're talking about. There is no economic problems in the country. All EU/US sanctions imposed on Russia can trigger hatred against mentioned. And yet CIA got no evidence of Russia involvment into the downing the passenger jet. In 1988 you Americans brought down a Iran Air Airbus A300B2-203 and then....nothing. No apologises, no condolences, no sanctions. Why? Cause you're authorised to perform such kind of things or something? It's better to chew gum than keep your mouth full open with anything intellegent inside.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
July 22, 2014 10:56 AM
Mr. Roderick F. Mollison from Chicago, "Hurrah for you" well said....
In Response

by: Roderick F.Mollison from: Chicago
July 22, 2014 9:57 AM
You should consider Mark Twain's remark that it is better to remain silent and be thought to be perhaps a fool rather than open your mouth and remove all doubt Mr. Riquin.
So let us await the results of the investigation and the full disclosure of the radar ATC tapes before we make silly remarks.

by: James McQuaid from: Lansing, Michigan, U.S.A.
July 22, 2014 7:55 AM
Ambassador Vorobyeva typifies the lack of character of the Russians. These people have no shame or decency, and should be shuttered into the night.

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