News / Europe

UN Demands Rebels Give Access to MH17 Site

Members of the Security Council vote on a resolution drafted by Australia, which lost 28 citizens in a Malaysian passerger plane crash in Ukraine, during meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, July 21, 2014.
Members of the Security Council vote on a resolution drafted by Australia, which lost 28 citizens in a Malaysian passerger plane crash in Ukraine, during meeting at United Nations headquarters in New York, July 21, 2014.
Margaret Besheer

The U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded on Monday that armed groups controlling the crash site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down immediately allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.

The Council strongly condemned the downing of the aircraft and called for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation."

Meanwhile, witnesses say pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have handed over to Malaysian experts the flight data recorders from the downed Malaysian airliner.

The transfer occurred late Monday at a meeting in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. It came just hours after Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak spoke by telephone with rebel leader Alexander Borodai.

Council member Australia, which had 37 nationals aboard the flight, drafted the resolution. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop traveled to New York for the vote. She said Russia, which backs the separatists, must use its influence to ensure the resolution is implemented.

"We must have answers; we must have justice. We owe it to the victims and families to determine what happened and who was responsible," said Bishop.

The Malaysian airliner was downed over eastern Ukraine on Thursday, killing all 298 passengers and crew aboard. Since then, rebels have controlled access to the crash site. There have been reports of evidence, and even victims' possessions, being removed.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said a resolution should not have been necessary.

"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. Or on Friday. Or on Saturday. Or even yesterday, " said Power.

The United States says Flight MH17 was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine. Officials have said because of the specialized knowledge required to operate the system, they could not rule out that Russian personnel had provided technical help to the rebels. Russia has blamed Ukraine for the crash.

  • 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.

​After some changes were made to the draft text, Russia supported the resolution.  Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said an impartial and independent international investigation is necessary and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) should play a leading role in it. He said all evidence, including the jet's black box recorders, should be provided to investigators.

One hundred-eighty-nine of the plane's 298 passengers were Dutch nationals, and Ukraine has asked the Netherlands to lead the investigation.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans came to New York for the vote. In emotion-filled remarks, he condemned reports of bodies being moved and their possessions looted. He said a "political game" has been played with the victims' remains.

"We will not rest until all facts are known and justice is served," said Timmermans.

Timmermans told reporters that if Russia does not act on its responsibility in this investigation, it will become increasingly isolated in the international community.  

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