NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The U.N. Security Council has unanimously approved an Australia-proposed resolution calling for an international investigation into the Malaysian plane downed over eastern Ukraine and an end to military activities around the site.
The council adopted the measure in a televised vote Monday after a weekend of intense negotiations and widespread pressure on Russia.
It also demands unimpeded international access to the crash site.
Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama called for international investigators to have “immediate and full access” to the crash site in eastern Ukraine.
Obama accused pro-Russian separatists in the area of removing evidence and bodies from the crash site, which he said raises the question of “what exactly are they trying to hide?”
“Our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened and putting forward the facts,” he said. “We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists.”
The president said the burden is on Russia and President Vladimir Putin to compel the separatists to cooperate with the investigation.
Obama said that if Russia continues to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty, Moscow “will only further isolate itself” and the economic costs will continue to increase.
“Now is the time for President Putin and Russia to pivot away from the strategy they’ve been taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities within Ukraine,” he said.
The White House said the missile that brought down the Malaysia Airlines plane was fired from an area controlled by the separatists.
Train With Bodies Of Crash Victims Leaves Rebel Town
Meanwhile, a refrigerated train carrying Malaysia Airlines victims’ bodies pulled away Monday from a rebel-held town in eastern Ukraine, one small step forward in easing the agony of their grieving families.
Of the 298 victims killed, 192 were Dutch and another, 19-year-old Quinn Schansman, had dual Dutch-American citizenship.
Schansman was born in Fort Lee, New Jersey and lived there until he was 5. He was a student at the University of Amsterdam.
Four days after the jetliner was shot out of the sky, international investigators still have had only limited access to the crash site, hindered by pro-Russia fighters who control the verdant territory in eastern Ukraine.
There have been concerns that evidence at the crash site has been significantly compromised, and that pro-Russian rebels may have removed the black boxes from the scene.
In an emotional inspection hours earlier, Dutch experts had called for a full forensic sweep of the Flight 17 crash site and told the armed separatists controlling the area that the train must be allowed to leave as soon as possible.
As CBS 2’s Alice Gainer reported, the bodies will be flown to Amsterdam on a military plane to be handed over to Dutch authorities.
The Dutch have condemned the way that the bodies have been treated in Ukraine.
“Anxious to know when the bodies will return to the Netherlands. So there’s a lot of grief of course,” Victor Jammers, Policy Director, Victim Support Netherlands said.
The Dutch team, which specializes in victim recovery and identification, saw some victims’ remains that had not yet been removed from the crash site. They also inspected piles of passenger luggage, suggesting that they be put in a container and shipped out.
In Kharkiv, another team of international experts arrived, including 23 Dutch, three Australians, two Germans, two Americans, and one person from the U.K.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s prime minister said the rebels agreed to hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Ukraine later Monday.
‘A Buildup Of Extraordinary Circumstantial Evidence’
The U.S. evidence that the rebels were involved in downing the plane included video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the missile strike and phone recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.
“A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence — it’s powerful here,” said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. “Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists.”
Putin lashed out against the criticism Monday, accusing others of exploiting the downing of the plane for “mercenary objectives.”
Putin said Russia was doing everything possible to allow a team of experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, to investigate the scene.
He again criticized Ukrainian government authorities in Kiev, saying they had reignited the fighting with the rebels after a unilateral cease-fire expired without progress on peace talks.
The head of counterintelligence for Ukraine’s SBU security service, Vitaliy Najda, has said the Buk missile launchers came from Russia and called on Russia to supply the names of the service personnel “who brought about the launch of the missile” so they could be questioned. He said the rebels could not have operated the sophisticated weapon without Russian help but did not provide specific evidence for his claim.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister said that the plane was shot down by a mobile missile battery from a rebel controlled area in eastern Ukraine.
“They have to stop and President Putin has to realize that enough is enough. This is not a conflict between Ukraine and Russia. This is an international and global conflict,” Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, said.
In Moscow, Russian officials offered evidence Monday to counter U.S. claims that the rebels were responsible for shooting down the jet.
The Defense Ministry showed photos they said proved that Ukrainian surface-to-air systems were operating in the area before the crash, nine times alone on Thursday, the day the plane was brought down.
Russian officials also said they had evidence that a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet had flown “between 3 to 5 kilometers (2 to 3 miles)” from the Malaysia Airlines jet.
“(The plane) is armed with air-to-air R-60 rockets, which can hit a target from a distance of up to 12 kilometers (7 miles) and guaranteed within 5 kilometers (3 miles),” said the chief of Russia’s General staff, Andrei Kartopolov.
The defense ministry officials also insisted that Russia had not given the rebels any surface-to-air missiles and added they have no evidence that any missiles were launched at all. They asked the U.S. to share any satellite images of the launch.
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