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EXCLUSIVE-UN Security Council mulls resolution on Ukraine crash site access

Source: Reuters - Sun, 20 Jul 2014 20:22 GMT
Author: Reuters
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(Adds details of proposed Russian amendments to resolution, British and French comment)

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 20 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is considering a draft resolution to condemn the shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine, demand armed groups allow access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an investigation.

Australia - which lost 28 citizens - circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member Security Council late on Saturday and U.N. diplomats said it could be put to a vote as early as Monday.

The draft resolution "condemns in the strongest terms the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 ... resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives" on Thursday and demands those responsible "be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability."

It "expresses grave concern at reports of insufficient and limited access to the crash site and of tampering with evidence related to the incident" and demands "armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unfettered access."

Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fueling a pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine's attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.

Moscow denies any involvement in shooting down the airliner and has blamed the Ukrainian military. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put forward on Sunday the most detailed accusations so far that Russia provided insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant posted on Twitter on Sunday: "Investigators must have immediate full access to MH17 crash site, and bodies treated with dignity. Will move ahead with Security Council resolution in next 24 hours."

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions.

Russia proposed amendments to the draft Security Council resolution on Sunday, seen by Reuters, which include removing references to armed groups and tampering with evidence. It also puts in place a caveat - the resolution would condemn the "apparent" shooting down of the plane.

Moscow also wants to add a demand that "all military activities be immediately ceased in the areas surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation."

International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visited part of the crash site for a third day on Sunday. They said on Saturday that gunmen had stopped them approaching some of the wreckage.

The draft U.N. resolution "calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident, including with respect to immediate access to the crash site."

Russia's U.N. mission declined to comment on the draft Security Council resolution.

French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud posted on Twitter on Sunday: "We have to act quickly before the evidence is destroyed. The UNSC should vote on the Australian draft resolution quickly. Tomorrow at the latest."

The Security Council issued a statement on Friday calling for a "full, thorough and independent international investigation," access to the site and appropriate accountability. Britain drafted the text and hoped the council could issue it on Thursday but Russia requested more time.

The Australian-drafted resolution "supports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines."

It also "insists that the bodies of the victims are treated in a dignified, respectful and professional manner."

(Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrea Ricci)

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