MH17 crash: Rebels, Ukraine agree to 'security zone' around crash site

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 19 Jul 2014

Pro-Russian rebels have agreed to set up a security zone around the crash site. - AFP

GRABOVE, UKRAINE: Ukraine and pro-Russian insurgents agreed on Saturday to set up a security zone around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, whose downing in the rebel-held east has drawn global condemnation of the Kremlin.

The head of the Ukrainian Security Service announced on Saturday that Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-mediated talks "concluded with an agreement to set up a 20-kilometre (12-mile) security zone so that Ukraine could fulfil the most important thing - identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives."

Outraged world leaders have demanded Russia's immediate cooperation in a prompt and independent probe into the shooting down on Thursday of flight MH17 with 298 people on board.

A team of nearly 30 monitors from the OSCE were to try and gain access to the grisly crash site on Saturday after meeting resistance from armed rebels on Friday.

But they face a massive challenge in gathering evidence that could definitively determine why the flight ended prematurely in a lawless region where Ukrainian forces have thus far been unable to exert control.

More investigators arrived overnight from the Netherlands - home to 192 of the victims - and Malaysia amid calls for unfettered access to the scene as Kiev accused the rebels of trying to destroy crash evidence "with Russian support."

Rebels backed up by strong diplomatic support from the Kremlin remain in control of the area and have shown few signs of being ready to cooperate with an investigation that could potentially blame them for attacking the jet.

An agreement to set up a buffer zone came only after two days of intense international mediation and has yet to be fully put to the test.

US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed by phone that "all countries should engage to ensure that pro-Russian separatists grant investigators secure and unhindered access to the crash site," Downing Street said.

Ukrainian rescue workers said they had recovered 186 bodies thus far. - AFP

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