Kiev/Moscow/Kuala Lumpur, July 19 :
A pro-Russian militia leader Saturday claimed that the black boxes of the Malaysian jetliner that crashed in Ukraine have not been found even as Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor agreed on a “thorough and impartial investigation” into the horrific tragedy.
Aleksandr Borodai, the pro-Russian rebel leader in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region, denied Saturday that the black boxes of the ill-fated plane had been found.
Borodai said they had not touched the site where the passenger flight crashed Thursday but they reserved the right to begin the process of taking away the bodies since they would decompose in the heat, according to Xinhua.
“We ask the Russian Federation to help us with this problem and send their experts,” Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, told a press conference.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed Thursday afternoon in the conflict-hit Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.
According to reports, the indications are that the Boeing 777 crashed after being hit by a missile. US President Barack Obama said Friday that initial investigations showed that the missile was fired from an area in Ukraine controlled by anti-Kiev militants.
Earlier Saturday, Kiev accused insurgents of destroying evidence of an international crime from the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner.
“The terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in Donetsk,” the Ukrainian government said in a statement.
In Moscow, the Kremlin Press Service said that the leaders of Russia and Germany have said that the incident should be thoroughly and impartially investigated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
“Both parties emphasised the importance of a thorough and impartial investigation into all circumstances of the accident,” the Kremlin press service said, citing a telephone conversation Saturday between President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The probe should be conducted by the ICAO and involve all parties concerned, it said, adding Merkel “positively” took Russia’s willingness to dispatch representatives to assist with the investigation, Xinhua reported citing the press service.
They also agreed that it “would be of fundamental importance” to implement Russia’s initiative on the presence of Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors at two checkpoints on the Russian-Ukrainian border.
Meanwhile, Malaysia Airlines Saturday confirmed the nationalities of all the 298 people on board the flight MH17.
A statement released on airline’s official website said the identified passengers and crew comprised 192 Dutch, 44 Malaysians (including 15 crew members), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 British, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, a Canadian and a New Zealand national.
In a press conference in Kuala Lumpur Saturday, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that the flight path of flight MH17 was set out by the international aviation authorities, approved by Eurocontrol and used by other airlines.
“It flew at an altitude set, and deemed safe, by the local air traffic control. And it never strayed into restricted airspace,” the minister told a press conference.
He called for all parties to protect the integrity of the crash site and to allow the investigation to proceed.
“Interfering with the scene of the crash risks undermining the investigation itself. Any actions that prevent us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated,” said the official.
Liow said Malaysia’s task force arrived in Ukraine’s capital Kiev earlier Saturday, and he, joined by the director of general of the Department of Civil Aviation, the Malaysian investigator in charge, and the chairman of Malaysia Airlines, would go to Kiev as well.
The minister said it appeared that MH17 was shot down and its passengers and crew were killed by a missile.