Updated: 07/22/2014 06:20 | By Agence France-Presse

UN Council demands MH17 crash site access

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


UN Council demands MH17 crash site access

A piece of the wreckage of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is pictured in a field near the village of Grabove, in the region of Donetsk on July 20, 2014 - by Bulent Kilic

Australia took the lead in drafting the strongly-worded resolution that called for an international investigation and demanded that those responsible face justice. 

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

She added: "Grief is now accompanied by outrage as we witness grotesque violations at the crash site" where gun-toting rebels control access and have been shown combing through the victims' personal belongings.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is believed to have been blown out of the sky 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 Security Council called on countries to cooperate with the probe, an appeal that implicitly targeted Russia which stands accused of supporting the pro-Moscow rebels and is suspected of having supplied the sophisticated missile weaponry. 

After three days of talks, Russia agreed to endorse the resolution following changes to the wording specifying who will take the lead in the investigation of the Malaysia Airlines disaster. 

"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.

The 15 members 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 participate in the investigation but not take the lead role, which will be played by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

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.

"It would be very frivolous to give Ukraine a lead role in the investigation," said Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, adding that Ukraine had to "provide answers" on the events that lead to the downing of Flight MH17. 

Moscow's envoy took a swipe at US allegations that Russia had a hand in the downing, saying there was "no need to turn the discussion of a tragedy into a farce."

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 chaos at the disaster area, 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.

- Stolen wedding ring -

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 and reports of evidence tampering.

"It must be unbearable first to lose your husband and then to have to fear that some thug might steal his wedding ring from his remains," said Timmermans.

"To my dying day I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs and that human remains should be used in a political game."

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