KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s transport minister is heading to Ukraine to join officials of his government already there preparing to assist in the investigation of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Malaysia is expressing alarm that the site, where a passenger jet of its flag carrier was apparently shot down by a missile, is not secure, and that bodies and critical evidence may have been tampered with.
Speaking before he left for Kyiv, the Malaysian transport minister, Liow Tiong Lai, told reporters his government is deeply concerned about the situation in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
“Any action that prevents us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated. Failure to stop such interference would be a betrayal to the lives that we lost,” he said.
If the rebels do not allow the Malaysians to enter the crash site, Liow said, “that would be inhumane.”
The Malaysian official said his government is asking the United Nations to arrange a cease-fire and is appealing to Ukraine’s government to negotiate with the rebels to arrange a safe corridor to the disputed area.
“And this must be done immediately. It must be done fast so that we can retrieve the human bodies as soon as possible,” Liow said.
The Ukrainian government is accusing Russia of helping separatist insurgents with destroying evidence at the farmland site of Flight 17.
Ukrainian officials allege that several dozen bodies have been taken to a morgue in Donetsk, a city controlled by the insurgents, and that autopsies were to be performed by “specialists with clearly Russian accents.”
Reporters in the area on Saturday say armed rebels fired warning shots to prevent journalists from reaching the scene of the crash.
Ukraine and the United States say the rebels on Thursday launched a surface-to-air missile hitting the Boeing 777 and killing all 298 people aboard.
The plane was on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
For Malaysia Airlines it is the second huge blow of the year and has raised questions about whether the flag carrier can survive.
Flight 370, which disappeared March 8 on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, still has not been found despite a major multi-national search in waters off Australia after it veered far off course.