Malaysian officials are heading to Kiev to seek access for investigators to the crash site of Malaysian Air Flight 17 as Prime Minister Najib Razak said that the plane’s flight-data recorders are his country’s property.
Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman will leave today and has meetings with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, and the country’s vice president and foreign minister, according to Nirvana Jalil Ghani, his press secretary. Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai left for Kiev yesterday and will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart, according to his office.
Malaysian Airline System Bhd. (MAS) Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine three days ago, after it was hit by what the U.S. said was a surface-to-air missile launched from insurgent-held territory. Investigators are struggling to begin their work at the site patrolled by pro-Russian rebels as U.S. and European governments urge Russia to ensure unfettered access, while the recorders, or so-called blackboxes, are yet to be recovered.
“The handling of flight MH17’s blackbox must follow the international laws of the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” Najib said in a Facebook post. “The recovery must be by Malaysia as owner of the blackbox.”
Flight 17 carried 283 passengers and 15 crew members, with Dutch travelers making up the biggest national group at more than 190, according to the manifest released by Malaysian Air. There were 43 Malaysians and 27 Australians on board, while other nationalities included people from Indonesia, the U.K., Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Canada and New Zealand.
Malaysian Air has deployed 80 people, including caregivers and its management team, who will be stationed in Amsterdam to assist family members of the passengers. Chief Executive Officer Ahmad Jauhari Yahya is heading to Amsterdam from Kiev today to meet with family members.
Five of the airline’s employees are joining Malaysia’s Special Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team in the search-and-recovery mission at the crash site in the Donetsk region, it said in a statement yesterday.
Officials from Malaysia’s National Security Council and the Department of Civil Aviation, as well as the police, air force and army, are also in Kiev along with a disaster-victim identification team.
Malaysia’s armed forces will send two C-130 Hercules aircraft to Ukraine to assist the investigation team, state news agency Bernama reported yesterday, citing armed forces chief Zulkefli Mohd Zin.
Liow said yesterday that Malaysia is deeply concerned that the crash site hasn’t been properly secured and there are indications vital evidence hasn’t been preserved in place.
“Interfering with the scene of the crash risks undermining the investigation,” he said. “Any actions that prevent us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated. Failure to stop such interference would be a betrayal of the lives that were lost.”
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