Malaysia, Ukraine Rebels Reach Agreement to Allow "Safe Access" for MH17 Crash Investigators

This story was updated at 12:33pm ET.
 
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak reached a deal with the leader of the pro-Russian separatists in control of the MH17 crash site to allow "safe access" for international investigators. 

"Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation, and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives," Razak said in a statement. "Tonight, we have established the basis of an agreement to do just that."

The DailyMail reports, "the remains of 282 people, currently in Torez, will be moved by train to Kharkiv, where they will be handed over to representatives from the Netherlands. The train will depart this evening Ukraine time and will be accompanied by six Malaysian members of the recovery team. The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, together with the Malaysian team."

The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam together with the Malaysian team. Following any necessary forensic work, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown home to Malaysia.

The announcement comes after President Obama urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to compel Russian-backed separatists to stop hampering the international investigation into the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17.

"It's now been four days since Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine," Obama said. "Our immediate focus is on recovering those who are lost, investigating what happened, and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure the truth is out and accountability exists."



International investigators are currently on the ground at the crash site, said Obama, but they lack "full and unimpeded" access to the crash site. 

The separatists controlling the area of the MH17 wreckage are using the crash site as an international bargaining chip, declaring that they can only ensure international investigators will have access to the crash site if Ukraine agrees to a truce.

"We declare that we will guarantee the safety of international experts on the scene as soon as Kiev concludes a ceasefire agreement," said senior leader Andrei Purgin of the Donetsk People's Republic, the self-declared sovereign entity the rebels claim to have established in eastern Ukraine. He further urged the Ukrainian government to "immediately conclude such an agreement" with the movement.

"Russian-back separatists continue to prevent investigators to access the crash site and are removing evidence from the site," said Obama. "Which begs the question: What exactly are they trying to hide?"

"This is an insult to those who lost loved ones," Obama continued. "This is the kind of behavior that has no place in a community of nations."

Given Russia's direct influence over the separatists, Obama argued that Russian President Putin has responsibility to compel them to cooperate with international members of crash investigation: "The burden now is on Russia to insist separatists stop tampering with the evidence."

The horrible incident should be a watershed moment for Russia to "pivot away" and bring an end to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, Obama said. "If Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, then Russia will only further isolate itself and the costs will only increase."

"Families deserve to lay their loved ones with dignity," concluded Obama. "The world deserves to know what happened."

Editors Note: Mar. 3, 2015 

An earlier version of this article failed to cite a passage from the DailyMail in accordance with Mic editorial standards. The article has been updated to properly attribute the language to the DailyMail.

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Jared Keller

Jared Keller is the former director of news at Mic.

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