World leaders demand answers after Malaysia Airline plane downed over Ukraine with 298 dead

Jul 18 2014, 15:43 IST
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SummaryWorld leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner.

World leaders demanded an international investigation into the shooting down of the Malaysian airliner. One U.S. official said Washington strongly suspected the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was downed by a sophisticated surface-to-air missile fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow.

There were no survivors from Thursday's crash, which left wreckage and bodies scattered across miles of rebel-held territory near Ukraine's border with Russia.

The scale of the disaster could prove a turning point for international pressure to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, which has killed hundreds since protests toppled the Moscow-backed president in Kiev in February and Russia annexed the Crimea a month later.

While the West has imposed sanctions on Russia over Ukraine, the United States has been more aggressive than the European Union in this respect. Analysts believe the response of Germany and other European powers to the incident could be crucial in deciding the next phase of the stand-off with Moscow.

CRASH SITE

The United States called for an immediate ceasefire to allow easy access to the crash site, while pro-Russian separatists told the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), a security and rights body, they would ensure safe access for international experts visiting the scene.

The plane crashed about 40 kilometres (25 miles) from the border with Russia near the regional capital of Donetsk, an area that is a stronghold of rebels who have been fighting Ukrainian government forces.

Leaders of the rebels' self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic denied any involvement and said a Ukrainian air force jet had brought down the intercontinental flight.

Ukraine on Friday closed the air space over the east of the country.

The plane's two black boxes - voice and data recorders - were recovered, but since the crash site was in rebel hands it was unclear who would analyse them and whether they could shed light on the crucial question of who fired the missile.

Further complicating any investigation, local people were seen removing pieces of wreckage as souvenirs. The condition of the metal can indicate if it has been struck by a missile.

Reuters journalists saw burning and charred wreckage bearing the red and blue Malaysia Airlines insignia and dozens of bodies in fields near the village of Hrabove.

Makeshift white flags marked where bodies lay in corn fields and among the wreckage.

An emergency worker said at least 100 bodies had been found so far and that debris was spread over 15 km (9 miles). The airline said it

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