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Ukraine rebels release bodies, black boxes from flight MH17

© FRANCE 24 Screen grab | Officials inspect the black boxes from flight MH17

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-22

After five days of obstruction, the black boxes of the downed Malaysian jet were handed over by Ukrainian rebels, the separatists also allowed a train carrying the remains of 280 people killed in the crash to leave the rebel-held region.

Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic also announced that a ceasefire would be observed in a 10 kilometre area around the crash site.

The black boxes, which record cockpit activity and flight data, should help shed light on the circumstances of Malaysian Airline’s flight MH17’s crash. It was apparently shot out of the sky on July 17 while flying over Ukraine on its route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The train with the victim’s bodies will arrive on Tuesday in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, which is not held by rebels, before being put on a plane to the Netherlands. The country suffered the greatest loss in the crash, with 193 of its citizens killed.

The rebel concessions came after US President Barack Obama insisted that Moscow force the Ukrainian insurgents it is accused of backing to cooperate with an international probe into the disaster, saying chaos at the impact site was an "insult" to families of the victims.

Obama said Putin and Russia had a direct responsibility to compel separatists to cooperate with the investigation, and that the burden was on Moscow to insist that separatists stop tampering with the probe, he said.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott slammed the delays in access to the crash site, describing what was happening at the scene as a cover-up.

“After the crime, comes the cover-up. What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale and obviously that has to stop,” Abbott told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

Putin said in a televised address that the downing of the airliner must not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site. His ambassador to Malaysia said the rebels did not trust the Ukrainian government and this caused the delay in handing over the black boxes.

UN Security Council Resolution

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

It also demanded that armed groups allow “safe, secure, full and unrestricted access” to the crash site.

Australia took the lead in drafting the resolution that was adopted after some changes were made to satisfy Moscow.

“The original resolution was initially a little stronger, but Russia wanted it toned down,” said Jessica Le Masurier, FRANCE 24’s correspondent at the UN.

Russia insisted on changes to the wording of the resolution to clarify that Ukraine will take part 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.

The crash sparked a flurry of tense diplomatic exchanges between the United States and Russia, whom Washington accuses of supplying separatists with the anti-aircraft weapons allegedly used to shoot down flight MH17. Russia’s Defence Ministry has challenged Western accusations that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down the airliner and said Ukrainian warplanes had flown close to it.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko swiftly dismissed that claim, calling it an "irresponsible and false statement.”

US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power “welcomed” Russia’s support for Monday’s resolution, but urged Moscow to back up its statements with actions.

There has also been a growing international call for broader sanctions against Russia for its support for the rebellion, although Western leaders are struggling to agree on a united response. France has come under pressure from Washington and London over plans to deliver a second helicopter carrier to Russia.

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.

"Till the day I die I will not understand how it is possible that it would take us days to get an act of human decency together which is simply to be able to gather the remains in a respectful way, bring them to a morgue and bring them back home," Timmermans told a news conference ahead of the session.

(FRANCE24 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-07-22

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