MH17 plane crash: UN demands immediate crash site access

  • 21 July 2014
  • From the section Europe

The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution demanding access to the crash site of a passenger plane downed over a rebel-held area in Ukraine.

Pro-Russian separatists earlier allowed bodies from the Malaysia Airlines crash to be taken to the city of Kharkiv and handed over to international experts.

Western nations say the rebels struck MH17 with a Russian-supplied missile, killing all 298 people on board.

Meanwhile, the main rebel-held city of Donetsk has seen heavy clashes.

Eyewitnesses say there is violence near the city's airport and the railway station.

At the scene: The BBC's Fergal Keane in Donetsk

For three hours close to the railway station I watched as several hundred civilians fled past.

There was shelling throughout the morning, some from Grad rockets but also mortar fire and intermittent sniper shots.

Most of this seemed to be coming from the direction of villages on the road between the airport and the railway station.

It was impossible to be sure who was firing or in which direction. However we saw the aftermath of a rocket strike in the playground of an apartment complex close to the station - a rebel controlled area.

Next to the crater lay a pool of blood, a man's shoes and a pair of glasses.

Donetsk clashes hamper MH17 recovery

At least three civilians were reported killed, and buildings were seen on fire. Residents were fleeing the fighting, according to BBC correspondents in the area.

The violence in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

'Establish accountability'

The UN resolution, proposed by Australia, calls for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation" into the downing of the plane over Grabove on 17 July.

It also demands that those responsible "be held to account and that all states co-operate fully with efforts to establish accountability".

There has been international outcry over the way rebels have handled the situation, leaving passengers' remains exposed to summer heat and allowing untrained volunteers to comb through the area.

Image caption Dutch investigators became the first to be allowed to examine the bodies on Monday
Image caption Many of the bodies had been exposed to summer heat
Image caption In Rotterdam, friends of two restaurant owners who were on Flight MH17, took part in a silent march

"We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the meeting in New York.

All 15 council members, including Russia, voted in favour.

However, Russia's envoy, Vitaly Churkin, warned that the Security Council should avoid jumping to conclusions about the cause of the crash.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron earlier said there was strong evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with an anti-aircraft system known as Buk.

But Russia denied allegations that it had supplied such missiles or "any other weapons" to the rebels.

The defence ministry said a Ukrainian military plane had flown within firing range of the airliner just before it came down - a claim denied by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Analysts say there has been a change of dynamics in the attitude of the separatists who, after hampering access to the crash site, allowed international investigators on Monday to examine passengers' remains.

The bodies had been kept inside refrigerated train carriages at a railway station in the town of Torez, some 15km (9.3 miles) from the crash site.

Image caption Ukrainian troops have been pressing separatists forces back
Image caption At least three civilians were reportedly killed during Monday's fighting in Donetsk

The rebels also agreed for the bodies to be moved to Kharkiv, and to hand over two "black-box" flight-data recorders recovered from the crash site to a Malaysian team in Donetsk.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak earlier said he had received assurances from Alexander Borodai, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, that the rebels would co-operate.

Mr Borodai and international investigators were meeting in Donetsk on Monday evening to negotiate the handover of the black boxes.