Malaysia: Rebels to let police secure MH17 site
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia said Sunday that it would send dozens of police to the Malaysian airliner’s crash site in eastern Ukraine after pro-Russia separatists agreed to allow international police personnel to provide protection for investigators.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement that he spoke with his counterparts from the Netherlands and Australia, and the three agreed to work together in deploying police personnel to the site.
Later in the day, however, European monitors said reports of fighting in the area had forced the cancellation of a trip to the crash site by a team of international police officers.
Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it was too dangerous for the unarmed officers to travel to the site from their current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk. He said that mission, comprising officers from the Netherlands and Australia, would reconsider resuming operations if security improves.
Malaysia’s statement earlier Sunday said that 68 Malaysian police personnel would leave Kuala Lumpur for the crash site on Wednesday as part of the international deployment. It was not immediately clear whether the reports of fighting would cause Malaysia to reconsider those plans.
There were 193 Dutch, 43 Malaysians and 37 Australians on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 when it was shot down over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine on July 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say it was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.
Najib had reached an agreement with rebel leader Alexander Borodai last week to secure the handing over of the plane’s black boxes and the remains of the victims, as well as to ensure safe access to the crash site.
In announcing Saturday that he would travel to the Netherlands this week to discuss the situation with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Najib said that while the first two conditions of the agreement had been met, his “priority now is to ensure the third part of the deal is honored, and that international investigators are given full and secure access to the site.”
In Sunday’s statement, Najib said Borodai had “agreed to allow a deployment of international police personnel to enter the crash site.”
“So far, international air crash investigators have been unable to properly deploy across the vast crash site in eastern Ukraine and collect evidence due to ongoing security concerns, including continued military activity,” the statement said.
These security concerns may be “preventing full and unfettered access to the site, and therefore a proper, independent investigation from being carried out,” it said, adding that “Malaysia is particularly concerned that some human remains may still be at the crash site.”