UN Scrambles to Protect Flight 17 Crash Site

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An armed man looks at charred debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Sunday, July 20, 2014.
Image: Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press

As fighting continues in eastern Ukraine, the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 remains in jeopardy as pro-Russian rebels are still in control of the area.

The U.N. Security Council will vote Monday on a resolution demanding international access to the Ukraine plane crash site and a cease-fire around the area.

Russia, however, is reluctant to approve it.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country, which proposed the resolution, would view a Russian veto of the resolution “very badly,” adding that “no reasonable person” could object to its wording.

This is still an absolutely shambolic situation. It does look more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation,” he told reporters.

“Given the almost certain culpability of the Russian-backed rebels in the downing of the aircraft, having these people in control of the site is a little like leaving criminals in control of a crime scene,” Abbott added.

The resolution calls for pro-Russia separatists to allow access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines passenger jet carrying 298 people, including 37 Australian citizens and residents. It asks for the full cooperation of all countries in the region, including Russia.

Despite international pressure for a cease-fire in Donetsk, the clashes continued between the separatists and Ukrainian forces on Monday with echoes of rocket fire and burning throughout the area.

Video footage below shows army tanks rolling through the city streets as Ukrainian forces launched an assault against the rebels.

The United States has presented what it called “powerful” evidence that the rebels, who have been in control of the areas for months, shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training. Other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash.

However, Russian officials have blamed Ukraine’s government for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed. Security Council diplomats held consultations late Sunday until past midnight to work out key differences between Australia and Russia. The diplomats emerged cautiously optimistic that a resolution would be approved, but Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin would not guarantee it, saying the draft “does not accurately reflect the need for an impartial, international investigation.”

The resolution also demands that armed groups who control the crash site do not disturb debris, belongings or victims’ remains — a particularly big concern after cleanup activities this weekend.

The rebels on Sunday loaded an unknown number of decaying bodies from the crash site onto three train cars in Torez, Ukraine, a mining town 10 miles south of where the jetliner is believed to have been shot down. A day earlier, Ukraine’s emergency service workers said they had removed 196 bodies of the 298 people who were on board the plane.

On Sunday, the Malaysia government said it was concerned the crash site had been “severely compromised” already, despite assurances from the pro-Russian separatists that they have not tampered with it.

Mashable reporting by Amanda Wills, Anita Li, Brian Ries and Christopher Miller. Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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