Netherlands and Australia favour UN plan to secure MH17 crash site

Russian ambassador says Kremlin ‘not responsible’ for supplying weapons to rebels

Dressed in white and holding white balloons, thousands walked through the streets of Amsterdam to pay their respects to the 298 people who died in the MH17 disaster, 193 of whom were nationals of the Netherlands. Video: Reuters


Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster have arrived in the Netherlands today, while Australian and Dutch diplomats promoted a plan for a UN team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens - were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17th. US officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster.

To that end, Mr Abbott said he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organisation which may result.

Australia’s foreign minister Julie Bishop was travelling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Mr Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Mr Abbott said.

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first bodies arrived in the Netherlands yesterday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes today brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.

The Dutch investigators gave permission for what it called “local parties” to move wreckage at the site in order to recover remaining victims. Conditions at the site, spread across farm fields in open countryside, have made recovery and investigation a slow and sometimes chaotic process, with rebel gunmen controlling the area and at times hindering access.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead. Around the world some 1,000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.

Staff will “examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days,” police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said. “Then we have to see if there is a match.”

Russia ‘not responsible’

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to London has said the Kremlin was not responsible for supplying weapons to separatist rebels accused of bringing down flight MH17 .

Alexander Yakovenko said claims by Kiev and Washington that Moscow and the pro-Russia separatists were behind the downing of the plane did not “hold water”.

Speaking at a news conference at the Russian embassy, he warned that any attempt by the West to impose further sanctions against Russia would be seen in Moscow as evidence of a “cover-up”.

“Russia doesn’t supply weapons to local de facto (separatist) authorities in eastern Ukraine. No evidence whatsoever has been presented that the Russian government has been doing this,” he told reporters.

The European Union met today to consider targetting state-owned Russian banks and their ability to finance Moscow’s faltering economy in its most serious sanctions so far over the Ukraine crisis.

Ambassadors of the 28-nation bloc are in Brussels to discuss options drafted by the executive European Commission in response to the downing of a Malaysian airliner. In the key measure, European investors would be banned from buying new debt or shares of banks owned 50 percent or more by the state. These banks raised almost half of their €15.8 billion capital needs in EU markets last year.

Black box

The Dutch Safety Board (DSB) which is leading the investigation into the MH17 disaster, said that the black box flight data recorder (FDR) recovered from the crash scene was slightly damaged but the memory module was intact.

The DSB went on: “Furthermore, no evidence or indications of manipulation of the recorder was found. Following the examination, the data was successfully downloaded and the FDR contained valid data of the flight.”

Yesterday the DSB had said that the black box cockpit voice recorder (CVR) had also been damaged but that it had also been successfully downloaded and had also contained valid flight data.

“The data from both recorders will be further analysed and combined,” the DSB said today.

The black boxes — actually orange in colour — have been analysed by the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) and by international experts at the AAIB’s headquarters at Farnborough in Hampshire.

The DSB said today: “A thorough analysis of the information obtained will take time and the results will be included in the investigation.”