Malaysia has stepped up its demands for access to the crash site of MH17, and says that a “safe corridor” to the crash site is still not open.
“The Ukrainian government has informed the Joint International Investigation Team that the crash site is under the full control of separatist groups,” says Malaysia transport minister Liow Tiong Lai in a statement.
“The Ukrainian government has stated that it has been unable to establish a safe corridor to the crash site for the international team. The Ukrainian government has said it cannot guarantee the safety of the international team in and around the crash site.”
Liow issued the statement from Kiev, where he arrived over the weekend for meetings with Ukrainian officials.
He added that a team of 133 officials and experts from Malaysia is now in Kiev, and that the joint international investigation team comprises officials from the Netherlands, the UK’s Air Accident Investigation Branch, and the USA’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
One challenge in obtaining access to the crash site of the Boeing 777-200ER, which was downed by a surface-to-air missile on Thursday 17 July, is that the region of the crash site is held by several pro-Russian separatist groups, with no clear chain-of-command to help secure the crash site.
Only personnel for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have obtained “brief” access to the location.
The statement follows a spate of reports that suggest the as-yet unsecured crash site is being looted for personal effects, and that some of the bodies of some of the 298 crew and passengers that were aboard the aircraft have been removed. The status of the flight data and cockpit voice recorders is also not clear.
“Malaysia is deeply concerned that the international team is effectively being prevented from entering the crash site. It is imperative that international investigators and search and recovery personnel are afforded full and unhindered access to this site,” says Liow.
“Malaysia demands that all human remains must be allowed to be recovered, identified and repatriated…despite reported comments by the leader of a separatist group that his group has not interfered with the crash site, Malaysia is very concerned that the sanctity of the crash site has been severely compromised.”