UNITED NATIONS/GRABOVE (Ukraine)
The United Nations Security Council, meeting in an emergency session, Friday called for a “full, thorough, and independent international investigation” into the downing of Malaysian Airlines in Ukraine.
A press statement approved by all 15 council members expresses the council’s “deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims, and to the people and governments of all those killed in the crash.”
Council members stood in a moment of silent tribute to the 298 victims at the start of the emergency council meeting, called by Britain. The council called for an investigation “in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability.” It stressed the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.”
Speaking in Washington, US President Barack Obama said that a surface-to-air missile fired from separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine was to blame for the “unspeakable” downing of the Malaysian airliner.
Obama said the disaster was a “wake-up” call for European nations that have been wary of toughening sanctions against Russia over its role in Ukraine and revealed that one American was among the dead in the disaster.
He also demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin act to control pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine, and said they would not have been able to hit an airliner flying at 30,000 feet without Russian equipment and training.
In his most extensive comments on Thursday’s tragedy to date, Obama mourned the men, women, children and infants who died when the plane was brought down en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
“Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions,” Obama said, bemoaning the fact that those killed had nothing to do with the battle in Ukraine between the Western-backed government in Kiev and pro-Moscow rebels.
“Evidence indicates that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile that was launched from an area that is controlled by Russian-backed separatists inside of Ukraine,” Obama said.
Earlier, a US intelligence official told AFP that there were indications from satellite and other data that separatists shot down the Boeing-777, but said no final conclusion had been drawn.
Obama called for an immediate ceasefire that he said separatist forces must honor and warned evidence at the crash site must not be tampered with.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a full-scale international investigation of the Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine.
“There is clearly a need for a full, transparent and international investigation,” Ban told reporters, while offering condolences to the victims’ families.
“I am closely monitoring the reports, along with the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a United Nations agency,” the secretary-general said.
US Vice President Biden said that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 “apparently had been shot down” and “blown out of the sky” over eastern Ukraine.
Global demands mounted Friday to find those responsible for apparently shooting down the Malaysian airliner.
Local emergency crews picked through terrible carnage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, placing dozens of sticks with white rags in the ground to mark where bodies lay.
News of the crash sent world stock markets tumbling. Shares in Malaysia Airlines, still afflicted by the trauma and global stigma of flight MH370’s disappearance four months ago, plummeted almost 18 percent on Friday morning.
The father of one MH17 stewardess wept as he expressed the vain hope his daughter could be alive.
“We are just hoping she survived even though we know many are dead... We pray that somehow she is safe and comes home,” Salleh Samsudin, 54, said of 31-year-old Nur Shazana Salleh on Malaysian television.
One devastated relative told how her sister Ninik Yuriani, 56 - of Indonesian descent but a Dutch national - was on her way to Jakarta to celebrate Eid.
“My family is now gathered at my sister’s house in Jakarta. We’ve decided to keep this from my mother. She’s so old and weak, I don’t think she could take it,” Enny Nuraheni, 54, told AFP.
In the Netherlands, tears welled up in the eyes of Sander Essers, who lost several relatives in the crash, as he told AFP he had spoken to his brother just 20 minutes before he boarded.
“I can’t tell you what he told me.”
Scores of mutilated corpses and body parts were strewn around the smouldering wreckage in the village of Grabove, near the Russian border. Shocked residents of the village said the crash impact felt “like an earthquake”.
Malaysia Airlines said 283 passengers and 15 crew were aboard the plane - including at least 173 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians, 28 Australians and 12 Indonesians.
As many as 100 of those killed were delegates heading to Australia for a global AIDS conference, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crash was “not an accident, but a crime” and blasted Russia’s response to the downing of the jet as “deeply unsatisfactory”.
Local rescue workers at the scene told AFP that at least one of the plane’s black boxes had been found and mediators said rebels had committed to allowing international investigators “safe access” to the site, as President Barack Obama has warned against tampering with evidence among scattered debris.
Interpol offered its “full assistance” to help identify and repatriate corpses.
Comments attributed to a pro-Russian rebel chief suggested his men may have downed the plane by mistake, believing it to be a Ukrainian army transport aircraft.
Ukraine released recordings of what they said was an intercepted call between an insurgent commander and a Russian intelligence officer as they realised they had shot down a passenger liner.