A Malaysian team including two air accident investigators arrived in Kiev yesterday and the country’s transport minister was expected to follow, as Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed for access to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site.
Meanwhile, Ukraine said it has “compelling evidence” that the crew which operated the missile system it says shot down the airliner were Russian citizens and that they must be questioned, the country’s counterintelligence chief said.
“We have compelling evidence that this terrorist act was committed with the help of the Russian Federation. We know clearly that the crew of this system were Russian citizens,” Vitaly Nada told a news conference.
He also called on Russia to provide the full names of the crew so Kiev could question them.
Najib said he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone late on Friday to stress the need for an objective, unfettered probe into the crash that killed 298 people, amid concerns the site was vulnerable to tampering.
“I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered [with] before the team begins its investigation,” he was quoted as saying by national news agency Bernama.
The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down in a separatist-held region, with the US saying it was shot down in a missile attack, a possible casualty of Ukraine’s battle with pro-Russia rebels.
A 62-member Malaysian team arrived in Kiev yesterday, a member of the delegation told reporters.
It was to include two accredited air crash investigators invited by Ukraine to help probe responsibility for the disaster.
Malaysian Minister of Transport Liow Tiong Lai was due to leave for Kiev later yesterday, the Star daily said.
Though it occurred in rebel territory, Ukraine’s government has the authority to investigate the crash, under international conventions.
However, concerns have emerged after international observers were blocked or given only partial access by armed rebels.
US President Barack Obama has said evidence indicates a missile was fired from the rebel-held zone.
The disaster has deeply shocked Malaysia, still grappling with the trauma of the March 8 disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 with 239 passengers and crew aboard, including 38 Malaysians.
No trace of MH370 has been found, severely damaging Malaysia’s image abroad and leaving passengers’ relatives furious, deeply anguished and demanding answers.
“Wrong target; who committed this atrocity?” leading Malay-language daily Utusan Malaysia said yesterday of MH17 on its front page, echoing the tone of most leading newspapers and Malaysian social media chatter.
At least 44 Malaysians were on the flight.
In an address to his nation late on Friday, Najib demanded justice if it is determined that the plane was shot down, condemning what he called an “inhumane, uncivilized, violent and irresponsible act.”
He said the Muslim-majority country would hold an emergency sitting of parliament — expected on Wednesday — to vent its anger over the disaster, and that all flags in the country would be flown at half-staff.
“Of course there is anger. Why must this happen only to us [in] Malaysia? I really feel like beating that Russian, Vladimir Putin,” said Mohamad Shidee Mohamad Ghazali, 28, a welder with state utility company Tenaga Nasional.
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