24th Oct 2016

UN to hold meeting on Ukraine crash, as Europe counts casualties

  • UN building in New York. The special session is to start at 10am local time (Photo: un.or)

The UK has tabled a UN resolution calling for an international enquiry into the Malaysian Airlines crash, as European countries count their casualties.

The British proposal is to be discussed at a special meeting of the UN Security Council in New York later on Friday (18 July).

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“We believe that there must be a UN-led international investigation of the facts … the United Nations civil aviation organisation is the right body to lead that investigation and we will provide it with all the support we can,” the UK foreign minister, Philip Hammond, said in a statement on Thursday.

The White House, the UN secretary general, and the Nato secretary general backed the British call, with White House spokesman Josh Earnest saying: “It is vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way.”

The OSCE, a European multilateral body, also held two video-conferences with pro-Russia rebels in an effort to get international personnel to the crash site as quickly as possible.

It said the rebels “agreed to securing the site of the crash, to providing safe access to the site for rescue teams, national and international investigators, and SMM [OSCE] monitors, and to co-operating with competent Ukrainian authorities on further practical questions”.

One hundred and fifty four Dutch people, nine British citizens, four Germans, and four Belgians were killed in the incident, according to Malaysian Airlines.

Forty-three Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, three Filipinos, and one Canadian also died. Another 41 casualties are still to be identified.

The airline noted that its plane had a “clean maintenance record” and did not make a distress call before it crashed.

It added that the route -10,000 metres over a conflict in east Ukraine, where rebels recently shot down two Ukrainian military planes - had been “declared safe” by ICAO, the international aviation authority.

For his part, Ukrainian President Poroshenko said on Friday morning: “Today, war has gone beyond the territory of Ukraine … external aggression against Ukraine is not only our problem, but also a threat to European and global security. Overcoming it requires joint efforts.”

He complained that rebels are trying to “cover things up”, citing reports the pro-Russia fighters are to send the plane’s black boxes to Moscow.

Ukraine says it has “evidence” the separatists shot down the airliner using a Russian-supplied Buk surface-to-air missile.

On Thursday, its security service, the SBU, posted on YouTube and sent to press excerpts of intercepted phone conversations between pro-Russia rebels and Russian military officers indicating the rebels fired on the plane because they mistook it for a Ukrainian military jet.

Leading analysts, such as Mark Galeotti, a US scholar of Russia affairs based in Moscow, have predicted that if Ukraine's claims are borne out, the incident will mark a turning point in the four-month old conflict.

He wrote on his blog that international pressure would likely see Russia halt support for the Ukraine insurgents.

“I suspect that when the histories are written, this will be deemed the day the insurgency lost. Or, at least, began to lose,” he said.

Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Thursday held a minute of silence for the victims before starting a government meeting.

But he blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying: “This tragedy would not have occurred if there were peace in that country, or in any case, if hostilities had not resumed in southeast Ukraine. And certainly, the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy”.

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