MH17 crash: Pressure grows on Russia over crash inquiry

International observers have had their movements restricted by pro-Russia militiamen who control the crash site. Both Ukraine and the pr-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down the Boeing 777

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Western countries have demanded that Russia put pressure on Ukrainian rebels to allow full access to the site of Thursday’s Malaysia Airlines crash.

Dutch PM Mark Rutte said he had told Russian President Vladimir Putin that time was “running out” to show he could help. Most crash victims were Dutch.

The UK summoned the Russian envoy and said the “world’s eyes” were on Russia.

International observers have had their movements restricted by pro-Russia militiamen who control the crash site.

Both Ukraine and the pr-Russian rebels have accused each other of shooting down the Boeing 777, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Flight MH17 was reportedly hit by a missile over a rebel-held area in Donetsk region on Thursday. All 298 people on board died.

‘Time running out’

The passenger list released by Malaysia Airlines shows the plane was carrying 193 Dutch nationals (including one with dual US nationality), 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians and 10 Britons (including one with dual South African nationality), four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

Ukraine has accused militiamen at the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash of trying to destroy evidence of an “international crime”.

In a news conference on Saturday, Mr Rutte said he had had an “intense” phone call with Mr Putin.

“I told him ‘time is running out for you to show the world that you have good intentions’,” Mr Rutte said.

He added that Dutch people were “furious” at pictures of bodies being carried across the open country, and called on the Russian president “to show that he will do what is expected of him and will exert his influence”.

At the main site the bodies were without covering. Some lay alone. Others were grouped together amid the twisted metal, the bags and cases, the child’s playing cards, the guide books, the laptop computer, the duty free whiskey bottle, the woman’s hat.

A militiaman with the nickname “Grumpy” – he was squat and barrel-chested with poor teeth and carried a machine gun – harangued me when I asked if the rebels would now stop fighting.

“You are only here because foreigners are dead,” he said. And the old story was repeated, the same I have heard on numerous roadblocks – the Western media were all capitalists doing the bidding of their American and EU masters.

When the OSCE turned up in a convoy “Grumpy” came into his own. Now he was a man of power. He halted the OSCE and told them they would have to go forward on foot.

The BBC’s Richard Galpin at the site says he saw bodies being removed by emergency workers, but it was not clear where they were being taken, or whether the workers were loyal to the rebels or the Kiev government.

Earlier, Mr Rutte and UK Prime Minister David Cameron spoke by phone and called on the EU to “reconsider its approach to Russia” following the disaster.

British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said: “The world’s eyes will be on Russia to see if she delivers on her obligations in the next couple of hours.”

Crash scene investigation

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also spoke to Mr Putin on Saturday, urging his co-operation.

On Friday US President Barack Obama said the plane had been destroyed by a missile fired from a rebel area, and that insurgents would not be capable of carrying out such an attack without Moscow’s support.

Russia denies any involvement and has rejected Western allegations that it is stoking the Ukraine conflict.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur on Satuday, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong-Lai expressed concern that the scene was not properly sealed and could be tampered with.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) are now at the site.

OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said access had improved from Friday and that the monitors were seeing parts of the field they had not seen before, but that their their movements were still being restricted.

The monitors are there to observe the site ahead of the arrival of international investigators.

Ukraine’s government has called Thursday’s disaster an “act of terrorism” and released what it says are intercepted phone conversations that proved the plane was shot down by separatists.

 

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