Malaysia Airlines flight 17

Russia backs UN resolution demanding international access to MH17 crash site

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 July, 2014, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 23 July, 2014, 1:27am

Even as a reluctant Russia backed a UN Security Council resolution demanding international access to the crash site of MH17, military officials in Moscow came out swinging in defence, saying there was evidence suggesting that Ukrainian air defence forces could be to blame for the tragedy and lambasting the west for "unfounded accusations".

After three days of talks, Russia agreed to endorse the resolution after its wording was changed to clarify that Ukraine would participate in the investigation but not take the lead role. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said he was satisfied that the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) would have a prominent role in the investigation, and welcomed the announcement that the Netherlands would also take a lead role.

Five days after the plane crashed, pro-Russian separatists conceded to a furious international clamour for the bodies and the plane's black boxes to be handed over to investigators.

The devices, which record cockpit activity and flight data, were handed to Malaysian officials by the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai. The black boxes will be sent to a lab in the United Kingdom, said Malaysian officials.

The rebels also released the train containing the bodies of the dead, which arrived in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv yesterday.

The bodies will be put on a plane to the Netherlands, where the flight to Kuala Lumpur originated and which suffered the greatest loss, with 193 citizens killed in the crash.Hitting back at accusations against it, Moscow claimed records showed a Ukrainian military plane had been flying three to five kilometres from the Boeing 777 before it crashed.

Andrei Kartopolov, head of the Russian military's main operations directorate, also showed Russian satellite images which he said revealed that "three to four divisions" of Buk missile launchers, the weapon widely suspected to have shot down the plane, had been deployed near Donetsk. One Buk complex had been moved from Donetsk to a location near rebel-controlled areas shortly before the tragedy, he said. "Why and against whom did Ukrainian forces deploy such a air defence formation near Donetsk, since it's well known that the rebels don't have aviation?" Kartopolov said.

Kartopolov finished by calling on Washington to release satellite imagery proving the missile was fired from rebel-controlled territory, wondering if "it was accidental or not" that a US satellite was overhead at the time.

Agence France-Presse, The Guardian, Associated Press