The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously demanded that international investigators gain unfettered access to the site of the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, capping an intense week of negotiations in which Russia gave in to pressure to go along with the measure.
The resolution, approved by all 15 members of the council, also calls for an end to fighting in the area, which is part of an escalating war between the Ukraine government and pro-Russia separatists.
Russia had withheld support as it argued against Ukrainian authorities from taking a lead role in the probe. It wanted a U.N. agency to assume that role. But the Russians capitulated as it faced growing international scorn.
The United States has said there is evidence that the airliner was shot down by the separatists with a Russian-made surface-to-air missile that requires complex training. Nearly 300 people died.
Russia has blamed Ukraine for shooting down the jet.
Russia has also been criticized for failing to act forcefully enough to compel the rebels to allow investigators to reach the crash site.
There are widespread reports of separatists denying investigators access to the site and of people rifling through the debris, which remains a potential crime scene. The Australia-proposed resolution calls for armed groups to prevent any more destruction of evidence.
Malaysian representative Datuk Hussein Haniff said the resolution “paves the way” for making sure whoever is responsible to be “held to account and swiftly brought to justice.”
The Netherlands bore the worst of the crash, losing 193 nationals. Malaysia lost 43, and Australia 37.
U.S. representative Samantha Power accused Russia of sending a message to the separatists that they “have your backs.”
Russian representative Vitaly Churkin cautioned against “jumping to conclusions” and said there was no proof that Russia was linked to the crash. He blamed Ukraine for continued military activity in the area.
With the resolution passed, focus shifts back to the separatists, and whether they'll abide by the council's demands.
With reporting from The Associated Press.
First published July 21 2014, 1:33 PM