Russia urges an impartial and open investigation into the Malaysian Boeing 777 crash in Ukraine and an international commission to be set up. Addressing the UN, Russia’s envoy Churkin said a probe into Ukraine's aviation authorities is also necessary.
“As we see it, it is necessary to investigate not only the crash itself but also how Ukraine's aviation authorities performed their professional duties,” Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said as he questioned why a passenger flight was allowed over an area of armed conflict.
Malaysia Airline said in a statement on Friday that Ukraine’s traffic controllers ordered the Boeing-777 to lower by 500 meters when the aircraft entered Ukrainian airspace. It added that pilots were supposed to fly at 35,000ft (10,660 meters) throughout Ukrainian airspace, but air traffic control on the ground instructed MH17 to fly at 33,000ft (10,058 meters).
Russia’s envoy said ensuring the security of civilian aviation in a state's airspace is the responsibility of the state.
Speaking at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council, Churkin called for an international commission under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to be launched. He said that a thorough investigation into the crash should be conducted and its outcome should not be prejudged.
Churkin told reporters at UN headquarters that Russia did not shoot down the Ukrainian fighter jet.
“We didn't do it,” Churkin said.
Despite no clear understanding of what happened in the sky over eastern Ukraine yet, Kiev and Washington rushed to blame anti-Kiev militias, which the US envoy to the UN claimed could have received “technical assistance from Russian personnel.”
“We assess Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 carrying these 298 people from Amsterdam to Kuala-Lumpur was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, a SA-11 operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine,” US envoy Samantha Power told the UN Security Council in New York.
She ruled out that “shorter range” systems, which self-defense forces possess - manpads, SA-8, SA-13 systems - could have been used to down the plane.
“Only SA-11, SA-20 and SA-22 are capable of hitting an aircraft at this flight’s altitude of 33,000 ft,” Powers said.
“Separatists were spotted hours before the incident with the SA-11 system at the location close to the sight where the plane came down,” Power told the Council. “Because of the technical complexity of the SA-11 it is unlikely they could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel. Thus we can’t rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems,” she concluded.
Power’s statement echoes Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, who earlier blamed “terrorists” for the incident and that he called “a terrorist act.”
Russia’s Foreign Minister said such accusations were “unacceptable pressure” on the investigators because “Ukrainian investigators will be guided in their work [by those statements].”
Addressing the UNSC, China has also called on world leaders not to jump to conclusions, saying that it will only “increase regional tensions and will not contribute to the search for the truth".
Argentina’s envoy to the UN also warned against a “blame game” and called for prudence until the international investigation is completed.
The Security Council called for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation” in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.
It stressed the need for “immediate access by investigators to the crash site to determine the cause of the incident.”
Meanwhile, the first 30 of OSCE staff arrived at the scene of the crash on Thursday, Reuters cited the spokesman for the Swiss chairmanship of the OSCE Roland Bless as saying.
The Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 carrying almost 300 people on board crashed on Thursday as it was flying over Ukraine’s Donetsk Region. Kiev officials and opposition fighting in the region blamed the incident on each other.
The UNSC members called the plane crash evidence of how the conflict in Ukraine was spilling outside the country.
A way out of the crisis in Ukraine is still possible through negotiations, Churkin said.
"The punitive operation in Ukraine's east has to be terminated immediately," he said. "Negotiations are still possible and eventually the right choice should be made."