Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Malaysia demands unrestricted access to crash site

Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry work at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry work at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region on July 20, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KIEV (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia is demanding immediate and unrestricted access to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site and guaranteed safety for its officials and those of the joint international investigation team.

Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said Malaysia also demanded that all human remains be allowed to be recovered, identified and repatriated.

He said Kuala Lumpur was deeply concerned that the international team was effectively being prevented from entering the crash site, Bernama reported.

"It's imperative that international investigators as well as search and recovery personnel are afforded full and unhindered access to this site," said Mr Liow who arrived in Kiev on Sunday.

He noted that the only international body that had so far managed to briefly access the crash site was the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Mr Liow met with the Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who is chair of the Ukrainian Special Government Commission on MH17.

He also met Ukraine's Infrastructure Minister Maksym Burbak and Denys Antonyuk, chairman of the Ukrainian State Aviation Administration.

"The Ukrainian government has stated that it has been unable to establish a safe corridor to the crash site for the international team… and it can't guarantee the safety of the international team in and around the crash site," Mr Liow said.

The international investigation team, he said, comprised officials from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and the United States' National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The Malaysian team of 133 officials and experts comprising search and recovery personnel, forensic experts as well as technical and medical experts had arrived in Kiev on Saturday.

Flight MH17, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft, was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it is believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile on Thursday.

The Malaysian jetliner with 298 people aboard went down in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.

Mr Liow said the Ukrainian government had informed the joint international investigation team that the crash site was under the full control of separatist groups.

Regarding reports that such separatist groups had custody of the plane's black boxes, Mr Liow said Malaysia insisted that these crucial pieces of evidence were not tampered with and were handed over to the international team.

"Despite reported comments by the leader of a separatist group that his group has not interfered with the crash site, Malaysia is very concerned that the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised," Mr Liow said.

Mr Liow arrived in Kiev accompanied by Department of Civil Aviation Malaysia director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman and Malaysia Airlines chairman Tan Sri Md Nor Yusof.

He is scheduled to meet the Dutch ambassador to the Ukraine, Kees Klompenhouwer.

Mr Liow said Malaysia was deeply concerned about the apparent "lawlessness" at the crash site, the situation further hampered by reports of the presence of competing separatist groups there with no clear leader or chain of command.

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