MH17 crash: OSCE investigators reach east Ukraine site

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Media caption,
"The fields round here are littered with parts of MH17, and, in the fields, little white flags, each of them marking where a body is," reports Daniel Sandford in Ukraine

International investigators have arrived at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, after rebels in eastern Ukraine allowed them access.

Some 30 monitors went to the village of Grabovo where the plane, carrying 298 people, came down on Thursday.

The two sides in Ukraine's civil conflict have accused each other of shooting the jet down with a missile.

The UN Security Council has held an emergency meeting, calling for a full and independent inquiry.

The Boeing 777 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. It fell between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk.

Latest figures released by Malaysia Airlines show the plane was carrying at least 189 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 12 Indonesians and nine Britons.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
The plane came down near the village of Grabovo in Ukraine on Thursday
Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Debris from the plane covers a very large area

The dead include world-renowned Dutch researcher Joep Lange who was among a number of passengers en route to an international Aids conference in Australia.

It is the second disaster suffered by Malaysia Airlines this year. Flight MH370 disappeared en route from Malaysia to China in March and has still not been found.

Ahead of the Security Council meeting in New York, the UN called for a "full, thorough and independent investigation".

US envoy to the UN Samantha Power said the plane was "likely downed by a surface-to-air missile operated from a separatist-held location".

She said the UN had a "duty to everyone to determine why that jet fell out of the sky and stop at nothing to bring those responsible to justice".

Confirmed death toll so far

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
World-renowned Aids researcher Joep Lange from the Netherlands is among those killed
  • Netherlands: 189
  • Malaysia: 44 (including 15 crew)
  • Australian: 27
  • Indonesia: 12
  • UK: 9
  • Germany: 4
  • Belgium: 4
  • Philippines: 3
  • Canada: 1
  • New Zealand: 1
  • Unverified: 4

Ms Power also criticised Russia, saying: "President Putin has committed on several occasions to working towards dialogue and peace, and every single time he has broken that commitment.

"Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war."

The UK demanded that the UN go beyond its call for an inquiry and issue "a clear unequivocal condemnation of the actions of these armed groups" and insist that the rebels lay down their arms.

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin blamed Ukraine's armed operations in the east for creating the situation.

Media caption,
US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power: ''Separatist forces backed by the Russian government continue to destabilise Ukraine''

He said the Ukrainian military was responsible for "punitive operations on civilian targets and infrastructure, with dozens of civilians killed", saying the attacks must be stopped as soon as possible.

Mr Churkin also criticised the US, which he said had "pushed Ukraine to escalate the crisis and passed the blame on to Russia".

He also questioned why the Ukrainian aviation authorities had not closed the air space earlier.

In a briefing at the White House, US President Barack Obama said the downing of the plane was an "outrage of unspeakable proportions".

He said MH17 had been brought down by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-held territory.

Mr Obama called for an immediate ceasefire in eastern Ukraine. He demanded that full access be granted to investigators and that evidence should not be tampered with.

"We're going to make sure the truth gets out."

'Act of terrorism'

The Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe's (OSCE) Roland Bless confirmed to Reuters that its investigators had arrived.

The OSCE said the separatists had pledged to provide "safe access" and co-operate with Ukrainian authorities.

Media caption,
Recordings purport to show pro-Russian separatists talking about the downing of a civilian plane

However, separatist leader Alexander Borodai rejected international calls for a truce, as fighting continues between the rebels and Ukrainian forces.

He also denied reports that black box flight recorders of MH17 had been recovered and handed to Moscow.

The rebels have accused the Ukrainian government of downing the airliner.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Vigils have been held outside the Dutch embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev
Image source, AP
Image caption,
A candlelit vigil too outside Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia

But Ukraine's defence ministry said there were no Air Force jets in the area and no surface-to-air systems being used against the rebels.

US and Ukrainian officials said they believed the plane had been brought down by a missile - a Buk thought to have been used by the rebels in Ukraine before.

Ukraine has called the disaster an "act of terrorism", blaming it on Russia who it says has been aiding the rebels in the conflict and supplying them with advanced weapons.

"The Russians are done for. This is an international crime which must be investigated by the international tribunal in The Hague," Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

Ukrainian authorities have released what they say are intercepted phone conversations that proved the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists.

Buk surface-to-air missile system

Also known as SA-11 Gadfly (or newer SA-17 Grizzly)

Russian-made, mobile, medium range system

Weapons: Four surface-to-air missiles

Missile speed (max): Mach 3

Target altitude (max): 22,000 metres (72,000ft)

Source: Global Security

Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed the Ukraine government.

"The country in whose airspace this happened bears responsibility for it," he said.

Media caption,
Senior vice-president of Malaysia Airlines Huib Gorter said the plane was sound

Earlier on Friday, Malaysia Airlines' senior vice-president Europe, Huib Gorter, said the plane involved had been in service since 1997, had a clean maintenance record and that all communications were functioning normally at the time.

He said the flight route had been declared safe by the authorities, was being used by many other airlines and was not subject to any restrictions.

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