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Malaysian team gets access to crash site
Published:  Jul 21, 2014 12:43 AM
Updated: 3:59 PM

Day 4 of the MH17 tragedy

Latest developments:

  • A three-person team from Malaysia gets access to crash site

 

  • Ukraine government orders halt to military activity within 40km radius of crash site
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  • Ukraine PM says bodies will be sent to Amsterdam
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  • MAS offers US$5000 (RM15,870) financial aid
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  • 277 bodies recovered
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  • None of its missiles are missing, says Ukraine
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  • Ukraine releases recordings of intercepted call on 'black boxes'
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  • Donetsk group says black boxes in their keep
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  • JACC's Angus Houston leads Australia's MH17 envoy
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  • Malaysia demands 'immediate and unrestricted access'
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  • RMAF to deploy two planes to retrieve remains
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    Follow us as we bring the latest updates and coverage on Flight MH17:

    Three experts from Malaysian get access to crash site

    10.31pm: Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says that two accredited experts from Malaysia's Department of Civil Aviation and another from Malaysia Airlines are allowed to visit the crash site.

    "The three Malaysian accredited experts are expeted to reach the crash site on Tuesday," he says on Facebook from Kiev.

    This follows discussions with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)'s special ambassador Ertugul Apakan.

    The OSCE have been monitoring the recovery operations since Sunday, while Dutch experts have had access to the recovered human remains.

    No military activity in 40km radius of crash site

    10pm: The Ukraine government has ordered its military to

    stop any military activity within a 40km radius of the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

    Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said the order would take effect

    immediately in the effort to ease tension between its military and the rebels.

    Poroshenko (right, sitting) said it was part of the government's effort to expedite efforts for the joint international investigation team to have safe access to the site.

    Expressing his regret over the delay for the repatriation of the bodies on board the aircraft, which hindered the investigation, he said the Ukraine government had made every effort, including to invite Moscow to join the joint international investigation team.

    "I urge the international community to take action against this group for hindering the retrieval of the bodies on board MH17 and inability to ensure the safety of the team due to the situation," Poroshenko told a press conference when visiting the Malaysian embassy in Kiev today.

    Bodies to be sent to Amsterdam

    8.41pm : Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenuk says that all 277 bodies recovered will be sent to Amsterdam, but armed separatists are not allowing the train to move.

    He says that 251 of the bodies have been loaded into refrigerated train cars at the Torez train station 15 kilometres away from the crash site in Grabovo, Donetsk.

    “Controlled and coordinated from Russia, they (separatists) are not letting us send the bodies to Amsterdam,” the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre quotes him as saying.

    Speaking at a press conference at the centre, he also says that Ukraine is ready to hand over the role of coordinator of investigations to the Netherlands.

    MAS offers financial assistance

    6.32pm : Malaysia Airlines offers financial assistance of US$5000 (RM15,870) for each passenger's family.

    "This financial assistance will not be ofset against the final compensation nor affect the families' legal rights to claim," it says in a statement.

    Gerakan calls for international sanctions

    6:20 pm : Disgusted and shocked that rebels were meddling with the MH17 "crime scene clean-up" and even blocking access to international aid and investigative teams, Gerakan president and Teluk Intan MP Mah Siew Keong calls for international sanctions to punish the guilty parties.
     
    In the press statement condemning "rebels," Mah however does not specify which country - Ukraine or Russia - should be punished.

    He was however sure that  "maximum punishment is justified for such a heinous crime against humanity."

    No missiles missing, says Ukraine

     

    6.10pm: The Ukrainian armed forces has conducted an inventory of its anti-aircraft missiles and found none missing, said Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council spokesperson Andriy Lysenko.

     

    “No Ukrainian aircraft operated near the plane crash site at the relevant time and that isn't their usual operational height,” he adds, according to a statement from the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre on Friday.

     

    The denial came in wake of Ukraine and pro-Russia separatists accusing each other of shooting down MH17.

     

    In a separate statement from the media centre on the same day, Ukrainian Foreign Ministry director-general Andrii Sybiga said it plans to transfer the remains of the shooting’s victims to Kharkov, where there would be facilities to identify them.

     

    “Help will be given to the families of the deceased to obtain visas to enter Ukrainian territory.

     

    “There will be special facilities for relatives of victims at (Kiev’s) main Boryspil Airport. Volunteers will also lend psychological support,” he says.

    Ukraine releases new recordings

    5.21pm: Ukrainian intelligence services have released another set of intercepted phone conversations, this time claiming it to be rebel leaders discussing MH17’s black box.

    Released by the Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) yesterday, the two-minute recording purportedly comprises three phone conversations between rebel leader Khodakovskyi Oleksandr Serhiyovych and two separatist rescue workers identified only as Oleksiy and Andriy.

    “Our friends from high above are very much interested in the fate of the black boxes. I mean people from Moscow,” Khodakovskyi supposedly told Andriy in the second phone call at 6.10pm (11.10pm Malaysian Time).

    The authenticity of the recording is yet to be ascertained.

    Read more here .

    Meanwhile, Russian news agency Itar-Taas quotes expert as saying that the recordings released by Kiev are likely fake and a mash up of different fragments.

    "This audio recording is not an integral file and is made up of several fragments,” the agency quotes Nikolai Popov, whom it describes as "a reputable expert in sound and voice analysis". 

    5.20pm: Bernama reports Foreign Minister Anifah Aman ( left ) has arrived in Kiev International Airport at 3pm Malaysian time.

    He is due to meet with Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko, Vice Prime Minister Leksandr Sych and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on recovering and repatriating the victims of Flight MH17.

    Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai already arrived in Kiev yesterday.

    Ukraine PM: Russia, not 'drunk terrorists' shot down MH17

    4.50pm: Confident that "professional" pro-Russian terrorists shot down MH17, Ukraine's premier says today that Western powers, including the Dutch, were free to head a probe into the crashed airline, Reuters reports.

    Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk  said he was sure MH17 was not shot down by "drunk pro-Russian terrorists," and blamed Moscow again for its role in the death of 298 people onboard the Malaysian Airlines flight.

    "Ukraine is ready to hand over a coordinating role in the investigation into the tragedy to our Western partners. And the Netherlands could head that process," Yatseniuk reportedly tells a news conference.

    He also concurs with recent US assessment that a missile strike system BUK-M1 (SA-11 radar guided missile system) shot down MH17.

    4.42pm: Bernama reports that Malaysia is willing to provide counseling to the next-of-kin of passengers of all nationalities killed in the MH17 crash if there is a request.

    Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim says her ministry has contacted the embassies and high commissions of all the countries affected by the tragedy to extend the offer.

    Aussie watchdog warn of MH17 scams

    4.20pm:   Australia's SCAMwatch warns that scammers are setting up fake Facebook profiles for Australian victims of MH17 tragedy, to cash in on the people's hunger for information.

    The fake Facebook pages link to a blog, where they are then bombarded with dubious advertisements, the Australian consumer watchdog says.

    "If you click on the advertisement, the scammer will then make money from the ‘click-through’ by driving potential customers to a business’s website," it says, adding that such sites when wrongly clicked, may also infect users' computers with malware.

    SCAMwatch is a website run by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

    Cybersecurity company Trend Micro said criminals are also using the hashtag #MH17 on Twitter to lead users to malicious websites which host malwares. 

    3.29pm: Malaysia Hindu Sangam (MHS) president, RS Mohan Shan calls on all temples in the country to hold atma shanti prayers for the 298 passengers on board the ill-fated flight.

    Mohan reportedly tells RTM that the special prayers are not only for those who lost their lives, but for the country as well, following the loss of two national carriers in the last five months.

    Train with bodies blocked by 'terrorists'

    3.16pm: The Ukrainian government states that rescuers have found up to 251 bodies and 86 body fragments at the site of the MH17 crash as of late yesterday, according to a Reuters report.

    Quoting a statement by the Ukrainian investigating committee, the report says the remains would be loaded onto a second train with refrigerator wagons.

    However, at the same time, the committee says the first such train, on which some 200 of the bodies were loaded, “was stuck in the station in the town of Torez because terrorists are blocking its exit”.

    Tour packages not affected for now

    3.12pm: Tourism Malaysia says it has not received information on any immediate cancellation of tour packages from Western Europe, Scandinavian and Benelux countries as a result of the MH17 tragedy.

    In a statement, it explains tourists normally travel to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand on Malaysia Airlines (MAS) during this period of the long summer break.

    “We will continue to monitor the situation,” adds Tourism Malaysia.

    Russia must help stop evidence tampering - Kerry

    1:33pm: Drunken separatists in Donetsk were allegedly snatching bodies away from MH17 crash site and this must be stopped, US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN in an interview last night.

     

    "They are interfering with the evidence in the location. They have removed, we understand, some airplane parts.  It is critical.  

    "This is a very, very critical moment for Russia to step up publicly and join in the effort in order to make sure there is a full-fledged investigation, that the investigators and people who were coming to help from outside," Kerry tells CNN's Candy Crowley.

    Kerry also urged that international experts from ICAO, the FBI and National Transportation Safety Board be allowed full access to the crash site so that they can "put these facts together so no one will have doubt, no fingers will be pointed about conspiracies, about ideology and politics governing this".

    In the same interview, Kerry also reiterated US' stand that it is "pretty clear" that Russia had transferred a missile system to the hands of the separatists that could take down a plane.

    "We know, with confidence, that the Ukrainians did not have such a system anywhere near the vicinity at that point in time," he adds.

    Don't make political mileage of tragedy, says Putin

    1:15 pm: In his first public statement since MH17 went down, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned the world not to reap political mileage from the tragedy.

    “We must do everything to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy," Putin told Russia Today .

    "In the meantime, nobody should and has no right to use this tragedy to achieve their ‘narrowly selfish’ political goals," he said.

    Putin called for international investigators to come and help, especially those backed by ICAO, as there are not enough local expertise in Ukraine to comb through the wreakage in Donetsk.

    He also urged a ceasefire in the conflict zone.

    “We repeatedly called upon all conflicting sides to stop the bloodshed immediately and sit down at the negotiating table,” the president claimed.

    “I can say with confidence that if military operations were not resumed on June 28 in eastern Ukraine, this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.”

    To pave way for RM224k compensation

    11.39am: The Australian government is considering declaring the shooting down of MH17 as an act of terrorism, paving way for relatives to claim up to A$75,000 (RM224,000) in compensation, the Australian state broadcaster ABC reports.

    “The payment has been declared for terrorist acts, including the Sept 11 attacks, and the Bali and London bombings.

    “Senior intelligence figures have confirmed they have been seeking information on the option,” says the report, without naming the ‘intelligence figures’.

    PAS: Don't let US, Russia make use of MH17 tragedy

    11.25am: Dewan Ulama PAS secretary Ahmad Yahaya expresses concern the MH17 tragedy is being made used of by bigger powers to further their own agenda.

    “It is not impossible that the crisis between Russia and Ukraine is taken advantage of by superpowers like the US and Russia for their own interests.

    “MH17 cannot be made a scapegoat in a world crisis that involves superpowers,” the Alor Mengkudu assemblyperson is quoted by Malay daily Sinar Harian as saying.

    Ahmad also did not discount the possibility of certain quarters intentionally using the issue to turn the world’s attention away from the war between Palestine and Israel.

    Meanwhile, the daily also quotes International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa Mohamed as saying it is still too early to determine the effects on trade between Malaysia and Ukraine, as well as between Malaysia and Russia.

    “As of now, Malaysia’s investment in the two countries is still good, but it is still too early for us to make an evaluation.

    “We are still not clear on its effects to the country’s economy,” he said.

    MH17 given 'direct routing'

    11.18am: Air India pilots overheard Ukrainian air traffic controllers giving MH17 permission to fly a “direct route” instead of following zig-zag track between navigation waypoints, the Times of India reports.

    “Direct routing saves fuel and time and is preferred by pilots. In this case, it proved fatal,” an unnamed airline official is quoted saying in yesterday’s report, which added that the instruction was given minutes before the shooting.

    At the time of the shooting, the Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft flying from Delhi to Birmingham was just 25km from MH17 – a distance that can be covered by the aircraft in 90 seconds.

    Ukrainian air traffic controllers also asked the Air India flight to attempt to contact MH17 after its own attempts had failed, to no avail.

    “When the pilots learnt the cause of the crash later, they were stunned. It's like the person standing next to you has been hit by a sniper bullet," the source reportedly says.

    JACC Houston to head Aussie MH17 envoy

    11.05am: Former Australian Air chief marshal Angus Houston is appointed as the Australian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy in Ukraine to help recover the remains of Australian citizens on MH17.

    “He will remain in Ukraine as long as necessary to complete the task.

    "Once the site can be accessed by international investigators, Houston will coordinate Australia’s consular, diplomatic, disaster and crash site investigation response in Ukraine,” the Canberra-based Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) says in a statement today.

    Houston is known for his involvement in another Malaysian Airlines tragedy in his capacity as the JACC chief coordinator, which is the search for MH370 that went missing on March 8.

    That search in the Indian Ocean is still ongoing, with two vessels conducting a bathymetric survey of the search area to pave way for an underwater search operation, due to start in August.

    Over 20 families perish

    10.35am: More than 20 families have perished on MH17. These include a Dutch and a Malaysian family with six members each, the Star reports today based on the passenger manifest released yesterday.

    The Wals family were from a small town of Neerkant in the Netherlands and were on their way to Malaysia for a holiday.

    Jeroen and Nicole Wals perised along with their four children, aged 9-15. Their 15-year-old daughter Jinte Wals had tweeted about her holiday plan just an hour before boarding MH17 in Amsterdam.

    Malaysian Tambi Jiee was returning with his wife Ariza Gazalee and four children aged 13-19, after spending three years in Kazakhstan, the Star states

    Many children also died in the tragedy with at least 20 passengers on MH17 reported to be below 12-years-old

    'We will hand black boxes to experts'

    10.10am: A Pro-Russian separatist leader confirms they have what the group believed to be MH17’s black boxes, but said it would need experts to confirm this, according to Reuters .

    “Some items, presumably the black boxes, were found, and they have been delivered to Donetsk and they are under our control.

    “There are no specialists among us who could pinpoint the look of the black boxes, but we brought to Donetsk some technical items which could be the black boxes of the airliner,” the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksander Borodai, is quoted saying.

    He said the black boxes would be handed over to international experts, once they arrive.

    Ukraine received fee for each flight in airspace

    9.35am: The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Ukrainian government has a financial incentive to keep its airspace open as long as possible, despite the escalating conflict with pro-Russian separatist groups on the ground.

    “As the cash-strapped Ukrainian government was receiving overflight fees for each commercial flight above its territory and therefore had a financial incentive to keep the airspace open as long as possible,” the Australian daily quotes an unnamed industry source as saying.

    Previously, International Air Transport Association (Iata) chief executive Tony Tyler had said in response to the MH17 tragedy that airlines rely on governments and air traffic controllers to plan where it can or can’t fly.

    The Wall Street Journal meanwhile, reported on Friday that Ukraine plays an “outsized role” in civil aviation, because its airspace lies in between major destinations in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, and 75 airlines where flying on these routes as of two days before the crash.

    The report also quoted an unnamed person connected to the Malaysian government saying that if these airlines were to avoid Ukraine, they would have to fly over other conflict zones like Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria.

    Liow: Still no safe access to crash site

    9.05am: Malaysia is demanding “immediate and unrestricted access” to the MH17 crash site and safety guarantees for its officials and the international investigators who are attempting to reach the MH17 crash side outside of Donetsk, Ukraine.

    “It's imperative that international investigators as well as search and recovery personnel are afforded full and unhindered access to this site,” Bernama quotes Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai telling reporters in Kiev today.

    After meeting Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman, who chairs the Ukrainian Special Government Commission on MH17, Liow says the Ukrainian government could not establish a safe corridor for the officials to the crash site, and cannot guarantee their safety.

    He adds Malaysia wants all human remains on the site to be allowed to be recovered, identified, and repatriated as well, and expressed concern over reports that the only international body with access to the site are Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) officials, albeit only for a few hours.

    Umno Youth to present memo to Russia, Ukraine

    9am: Bernama reports that Umno Youth and several NGOs are to hand over memorandums to the Russia and Ukraine embassies and the United Nations representative office.

    The group is seeking a resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine

    between Russia-backed separatists and the Ukrainian government, which led to MH17 being shot down.

    Bringing the dead home

    8.35am: Armed forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin says two Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) C-130 Hercules cargo aircraft havee been assigned to bring back the remains of Malaysian MH17 victims.

    "The aircraft will be put on standby and used if needed to carry out tasks," Bernama quotes him as saying yesterday.

    The aircraft will also bring in extra air force personnel to assist the Special Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (Smart) in Ukraine, he says.

    Co-pilot fated to die in plane?

    8.05am: The grandfather of Flight MH17 co-pilot Ahmad Hakimi Hanafi feels the latter was meant to die in the aircraft, as he was supposed to have served on MH370 the day it went missing.

    However, Daud Abdul Kadir, 80, tells Bernama his grandson was saved due to a last-minute change of duty for him.

    However, Ahmad Hakimi's luck did not hold as he ended up on the ill-fated Flight MH17 which was shot down while flying over Ukraine.

    UK reporter realises error

    8am: The broadcaster UK-based Sky News issues an apology after one of its presenters Colin Brazier was shown to be rummaging through a luggage belonging to an MH17 victims.

    “We shouldn’t really being doing this, I suppose, really,” The Daily Mirror quotes Brazier as saying as he is seen picking through several items in a suitcase at the crash site before realising the mistake.

    The act had reportedly caused much criticism on social media, according to the UK-based tabloid.

    “Today whilst presenting from the site of the MH17 air crash Colin Brazier reflected on the human tragedy of the event and showed audiences the content of one of the victims' bags.

    “Colin immediately recognised that this was inappropriate and said so on air. Both Colin and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused,” The Daily Mirror quotes a Sky News spokesperson as saying.

    Background:

    • Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 with 298 people on board crashed in eastern Ukraine at around 10.15pm on July 17 (Malaysian time), near the Ukraine-Russia border. The Boeing 777-200 was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur and was due to arrive at 6am the next day.

         

  • A proxy war is taking place in the area pitting the Western-backed Ukraine government against Ukrainian separatists supported by Russia. It is said to be the worst crisis between the West and the former Soviet republic since the Cold War.     
  • Ukraine and US say they are convinced the aircraft was shot down by a surface-to-air missile from territory controlled by Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels.
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  • Russian president Vladimir Putin has blamed the tragedy on the Ukraine government for prolonging the war against the separatists, but has not directly addressed the perpetrators who downed the aircraft.
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  • Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak says Malaysia will not assign blame until there is concrete evidence but wants "swift justice" against the perpetrators if it is proven that the passenger aircraft was shot down.
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