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UN Security Council demands access to Ukraine plane crash site

Source: Reuters - Mon, 21 Jul 2014 19:36 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS, July 21 (Reuters) - The United Nations Security Council on Monday condemned the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine with 298 people on board and demanded that armed groups allow "safe, secure, full and unrestricted access" to the crash site.

The 15-member council unanimously adopted a resolution drafted by Australia, which lost 28 citizens in the crash, demanding those responsible "be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability."

"We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who traveled to New York to negotiate the U.N. resolution.

The United States and its allies have blamed pro-Russian rebels for downing the plane. Separatists in east Ukraine have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea in March.

Bishop told the council that Russia "must use its influence over the separatists" to ensure access to the site. "Russia must also use its influence to bring the conflict in Ukraine to an end," she said.

Russia voted in favor of the Security Council resolution after some changes were made to the text, including the characterization of the incident as "the downing" of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Thursday instead of "shooting down."

A request by Moscow for references to armed groups to be removed from the resolution was not granted.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters on his way into the meeting: "We were able to improve the text sufficiently for us to be able to support it."

The resolution "demands that the 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, including by refraining from destroying, moving, or disturbing wreckage, equipment, debris, personal belongings, or remains."

It "supports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines" and "demands that all States and other actors refrain from acts of violence directed against civilian aircraft." (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Chizu Nomiyama)

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