UN Calls Emergency Meeting Over Plane Crash

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Leaders around the world are calling for an investigation of the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane over Ukraine that killed nearly 300 people.

Witnesses and reporters say smoldering debris and body parts from Thursday’s crash of a Boeing 777 are scattered across a charred field in eastern Ukraine’s Donetsk region. There are no survivors. Most of the passengers on the flight, headed from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, were Dutch. Many were headed to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon led the call for a transparent investigation into Thursday’s crash. The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting Friday to discuss the tragedy, which many speculate was triggered by Ukraine’s separatist crisis.

The Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations, Yuriy Sergeyev, said Ukraine will present evidence to the Security Council of what he says is Russian military involvement in the crash.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said the passenger jet was “blown out of the sky” over eastern Ukraine Thursday, and did not crash by accident.

VOA’s Defense Department correspondent said U.S. officials confirm the plane was hit by a missile, but that it is not clear who fired the missile or whether it came from Russian or Ukrainian territory.

The official says the plane likely was targeted deliberately by someone who may have mistaken it for a military transport plane.

VOA Southeast Asia correspondent Steve Herman, who is covering the crash, says there is growing consensus that the aircraft was shot down.

“This does appear, according to U.S. and Ukrainian intelligence officials, to be a shootdown of the aircraft, perhaps mistaken for a Ukrainian military aircraft. And there’s no indication whatsoever that there was pilot error or some sort of mechanical fault that brought down MH17 over eastern Ukraine at this point,” said Herman.

Ukraine has accused pro-Russia militants of shooting down the plane, while Russian President Vladimir Putin blamed Ukraine for its offensive against the rebels that began two weeks ago. Putin called the crash a “tragedy.”

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said early Friday that its representatives have obtained a promise from the Ukrainian separatists, via videoconference, to cooperate with authorities and allow investigators safe access to the crash site.

The International AIDS Society, the host of the AIDS conference scheduled to begin Sunday in Melbourne, has released a statement expressing “sincere sadness” and condolences to the families of the victims.

The incomplete list of victims includes 154 Dutch, 45 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, and several each from Britain, Germany, Belgium and the Philippines, along with one Canadian.

Late Thursday, President Barack Obama telephoned Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte to offer condolences. White House officials say the two leaders talked about the need to ensure that international investigators have unimpeded and immediate access to the crash site.

Obama also spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, who said he cannot confirm the plane was shot down, but that the pilot did not send out any distress call.

A NATO statement says much is not clear about the circumstances of the crash, but that Russian-backed separatists have created an increasingly dangerous situation.

Various U.S. and international airlines, including Malaysia Airlines, say they will avoid the airspace over the border between Russia and eastern Ukraine.

Eastern Ukraine has been the scene of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatists who have declared independence in some regions with the aim of joining Russia.

Separatists say they have shot down Ukrainian military planes in recent weeks, and Kyiv accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian military aircraft Wednesday.

The United States imposed fresh sanctions on Russia Wednesday for failing to take steps to de-escalate the crisis in eastern Ukraine and for providing weapons and support to the rebels.

This is the second major tragedy for Malaysia Airlines this year. Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 was traveling from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8 when it disappeared with 239 people on board. It did not send out a distress call and is believed to have crashed in the southern Indian Ocean. Searchers have found no trace of the plane.

Source: VOA

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