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UNSC demands 'unrestricted' access, international probe into MH17

United Nation: The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution calling for an international investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight (MH17) in eastern Ukraine and demanded that armed groups allow investigators "full and unrestricted" access to the crash site.


Pic/AFP

The 15-nation Council adopted the Australian-drafted resolution yesterday and condemned "in the strongest terms" the downing of MH17 on July 17 in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, which resulted in the tragic loss of 298 lives. Russia, a veto-wielding permanent member, also supported the resolution after intense negotiations resulted in some changes to the text, including terming the incident as "downing" of the airliner instead of "shooting down. "The resolution supported efforts to establish 'a full, thorough and independent international investigation' into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.

" Expressing "grave concern" at reports of "insufficient and limited access" to the crash site, the resolution demanded that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area "refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site. "The Council members also insisted on the "dignified, respectful and professional" treatment and recovery of the bodies of the victims. It also demanded that all military activities, including by armed groups, be immediately ceased in the area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation. The Council demanded that those responsible for this incident to held accountable and all nations cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability.

Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin said he voted in favour of the resolution as he supported a swift and thorough investigation. He stressed that his country had already acted to facilitate the investigation and was offering to provide experts. However, he stressed that there could be no jumping to conclusions or accusations. Churkin said that all elements of the truth should be brought to light, such as through the black boxes provided to investigators. He added that Kyiv was attempting to draw on the shock of the international community, while its indiscriminate air strikes were hitting cities and killing civilians.

Explaining their votes after the adoption, Ukraine's representative to the UN Yuriy Sergeyev cited evidence that armed groups had carted away belongings of victims and tampered with evidence on the crash site. He accused the separatists of committing three crimes of bringing down the aircraft, mistreating the bodies and hampering the investigation and insisted that they be put on the list of terrorist organisations. He said that there was evidence of pilfering of the remains, as well as evidence that Russia was financing and supporting the separatists.

He called on Russia to end its support to the separatists, cooperate with the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's peace plan and to work with his country for peace in the region. Sergeyev hoped that the investigation would answer questions of not only who had fired the missiles that brought down the plane but also where they obtained the weapons. US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power said the global community is "horrified and enraged" by the "clear intention of some to obstruct an investigation into how the passengers and crew died." Power said "armed thugs" are walking around the crash site and while "almost everyone has condemned this grotesque behaviour," the global community has not heard much condemnation from Russia. "Russia has been outspoken on other matters. Russian officials have publicly insinuated that Ukraine was behind the crash.

" Russia blamed Ukrainian air traffic controllers for this attack rather than condemning the criminals who shot down the plane. Since then, Russia has begun to blame Ukraine for the attack itself, though the missile came from separatist territory that Russia knows full well Ukraine has not yet reclaimed. "But if Russia genuinely believed that Ukraine was involved in the shoot-down of Flight17, surely President (Vladimir) Putin would have told the separatists many of whose leaders are from Russia to guard the evidence at all costs, to maintain a forensically-pure, hermetically-sealed crime scene."

"Russia's muteness over the dark days between Thursday and today sent a message to the illegal armed groups it supports: We have your backs. This is the message Russia has sent by providing separatists with heavy weapons, by never publicly calling on them to lay down those weapons, and by massing thousands of troops at the Ukrainian border," she said. Power stressed that Russia can "unequivocally" condemn the separatists' inhumane treatment of the bodies at the site and use its influence to ensure no evidence is tampered with.

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