Ukraine rebels hand over plane black boxes

The move comes after a UN Security Council resolution demanded full and unrestricted access to the crash site.

Malaysian authorities said the black boxes were 'in good condition' [EPA]

A senior separatist leader, Aleksander Borodai, has handed over black boxes from an airliner shot down over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts in the city of Donetsk.

“Here they are, the black boxes,” Borodai told a room packed with journalists at the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, as an armed rebel placed the boxes on a desk.

Both sides then signed a document, which Borodai said was a protocol to finalise the procedure.

Colonel Mohamed Sakri of the Malaysian National Security Council said the two black boxes were “in good condition”, Reuters news agency reported. 

The rebels also announced a ceasefire within a 10km radius around the crash site to allow international investigators to safely access the vast area where the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down, AFP news agency reported. 

The move came after a United Nations Security Council resolution condemned the shooting down of the plane and demanded that armed groups allow “safe, secure, full and unrestricted access” to the crash site.

UN resolution 

The 15-member council unanimously adopted an Australian-drafted resolution demanding those responsible “be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability”.

“We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible,” said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who travelled to New York to negotiate the UN resolution. Australia lost 28 citizens in the crash.

Bishop told the council that Russia “must use its influence over the separatists” to ensure access to the site.

Veto-wielding councilmember Russia voted for the resolution after some changes were made to the text, including the characterisation of the incident as the “downing” of the airliner instead of “shooting down”.

A request by Moscow for references to armed groups to be removed was not granted.

The resolution “demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site, including by refraining from destroying, moving, or disturbing wreckage, equipment, debris, personal belongings, or remains.”

A train carrying the remains of most of the victims, about 200 body bags, arrived on Tuesday in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv.

The bodies will then be taken back to the Netherlands to be identified.

Almost 200 of the victims on the flight to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam were Dutch. An emotional Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said it was despicable that human remains were being used in a political game.

“We will not rest until all facts are known and justice is served,” Timmermans said.

Russia to assist

The resolution “supports efforts to establish a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines” and “demands all States and other actors refrain from acts of violence directed against civilian aircraft”.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said Russia was ready to assist an international investigation, but warned against “jumping to conclusions” on who was to blame.

Evidence should be given to the United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organisation, he said. 

Churkin said Ukraine had questions to answer regarding the actions of its air traffic controllers and why a Ukrainian Buk anti-aircraft missile system “was in an area directly controlled by rebels” and why it was removed just after the shooting down of the airliner.

Russia’s defence ministry on Monday challenged accusations that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting down the airliner and said Ukrainian warplanes had flown close to it.

When asked what Russia would tell the separatists, Churkin told reporters: “Our message is reflected in the resolution, this is our message.”

Source: News Agencies