UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution Monday calling for investigators to have unfettered access to the crash site in eastern Ukraine and demanding a cease-fire in the area.
Russia, which has been accused by the United States of involvement in Thursday’s shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, joined other Security Council members in the 15-0 vote.
The phrase “shooting down” was changed to “downing.” The role of the Ukrainian government was diminished. A paragraph calling for a cessation of hostilities around the crash site was added.
The Russian ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said as he entered the Council chamber that the text had been “improved” in order to win his government’s support.
The foreign minister of Australia, which drafted the resolution, said Russia “must use its influence over the separatists” to ensure key points of the resolution are upheld.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop addressed the council, citing “grotesque violations” of the crash site, where gunmen have been in control of the scene. “It’s despicable that this access is not being provided” to investigators, Bishop said. “It is an affront to the victims and their families.”
At least 27 Australians were among the 298 victims on the plane, which US officials have said was brought down by a missile fired from an area under control of the separatists.
Churkin said Russia “stands ready to provide any assistance necessary.” But Churkin quickly resumed attacks on Ukraine, accusing it of drawing on the “shock” of the jet’s downing to step up its own attacks along the border against the separatists, who are seeking independence and possible union with Russia.
Churkin, who has blamed Ukrainian aviation officials for the shooting down of the jet, also rejected the US allegations of Russian involvement in blocking access to the crash site.
“There’s no need to turn the discussion of the tragedy into a farce,” he said, referring to the US ambassador’s comments.
Late Sunday, it had been unclear if Russia would join in voting for the resolution. The final wording, however, does not assign blame for the crash. It expresses concern that “armed groups in Ukraine” have impeded access to the crash site and calls for a “full, thorough, independent international investigation” into the jet’s downing.
The resolution demands that armed groups in control of the site refrain from moving, destroying or disturbing wreckage, personal belongings, human remains and debris. It may be too late for that, however, given the movement of bodies from the scene and witnesses’ accounts of activities at the site.