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Game changer in Ukraine? World leaders call for swift investigation into downed flight MH17

Ukrainian and Russian leaders are trading accusations over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Crash investigators will have to overcome working in a war zone.

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    Ukrainian rescuers walk past debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Grabovo, Ukraine, Thursday, July 17, 2014. Ukraine said a passenger plane carrying 295 people was shot down Thursday as it flew over the country, and both the government and the pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region denied any responsibility for downing the plane. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)
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World leaders are calling for a swift, objective investigation into who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, while accusations continue to fly between the Russian and Ukrainian governments and war zone conditions pose a challenge to the integrity of the investigation.

In the latest figures released, Malaysia Airlines confirmed 298 people were on board the Boeing 777 with 154 Dutch passengers, 43 Malaysians, 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine passengers from the United Kingdom, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos, and one Canadian. Forty-one people still have not been identified. Passengers included several prominent experts traveling to the world’s largest summit on AIDS in Australia.

A statement on the airlines' website said, “Malaysia Airlines confirms that the aircraft did not make a distress call.”

Investigators are faced with a set of challenging conditions: working in a war zone and trying to gain access to black boxes, with allegations that some of the boxes have already been sent to Moscow. Rebels have said they will allow investigators into the area.

Russian president Vladimir Putin held a moment of silence for the victims at a meeting on the Russian economy. As soon as the moment ended, Mr. Putin placed blame on the Ukrainian government, according to a Kremlin transcript of his comments.

I would like to note that this tragedy would not have occurred if there were peace in that country, or in any case, if hostilities had not resumed in southeast Ukraine. And certainly, the government over whose territory it occurred is responsible for this terrible tragedy.

In a video address, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko blamed the plane’s downing on “terrorists” fighting against government forces in the country’s east and said the event should be a “wake-up call for the whole world.”

Over the past months Ukraine was overwhelmed by the events caused by the aggressors and militaries in the east of the country. But the tragedy which took place in the Ukrainian skies today is horrendous. Today terrorists killed three hundred people with one shot. Among them innocent children, people of many countries of the world.

By today it is evident that militaries in the east of Ukraine cannot go on alone. Russia more and more often militarily intervenes against Ukraine. Our territory is being fired on from across the border. Our planes are being shot down. Russia supplies military personnel and state of the art weapons. The hybrid war is showing all signs of an external aggression.

President Poroshenko also made reference to a conversation that was released yesterday by Ukraine’s security agency, the SBU. The conversation allegedly shows a fighter in eastern Ukraine, Igor Bezler, the self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, reporting to a Russian intelligence officer (allegedly Vasili Geranin), as well as other conversations. The conversations have been translated into English, German, French, and Polish. 

I. Bezler: Set off to search for the shot down plane and take the pictures of it. A plume of smoke is visible.

Later a man identified as “Major” says: The plane broke into pieces in the air, close to Petropavlovskaya mine. There is the first two-hundredth (dead), we have found the first two-hundredth. It’s a civilian [plane].

Another conversation in the recording has an unidentified militant speaking with someone identified as Kozitsyn.

The militant says: “On TV they say it is a Ukrainian An-26, a transport plane. But the writing says ‘Malaysian Airlines.’ What was it doing over the territory of Ukraine?

Kozitsyn responds: “Well then it was bringing spies. Why the hell were they flying? This is a war going on.

As the Monitor reported yesterday, the social media page of Mr. Bezler was quickly scrubbed after taking responsibility for the shooting: “In the vicinity of Torez, we just downed a plane, an AN-26. It is lying somewhere in the Progress Mine. We have issued warnings not to fly in our airspace.” 

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