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LIVE BLOG: MH17 crash aftermath July 21

Live coverage of the aftermath of the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on Thursday (July 17). All 298 people on board were killed.

All times listed are Singapore/Kuala Lumpur time.

12.20AM: Malaysia PM Najib Razak announces that the remains of 282 victims in Torez will be handed over to Dutch authorities, and these remains will be flown to Amsterdam with a Malaysia team. The remains of Malaysians will be flown back to Malaysia. At 9pm Ukraine time, the black boxes will also be handed over to a Malaysia Team.

11.20PM: US president Barack Obama makes his most comprehensive statement on MH17 to date, calling on Russia to compel Ukraine's separatists to allow international investigators access to the crash site, and for Putin to turn away from the aggressive strategy he has been pursuing with regards to the Ukraine crisis and turn to a diplomatic solution. "Families deserve to lay their loved ones to rest with dignity, and the world deserves to know what happened."

11.14PM: Malaysia Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says OSCE will be escorting 3 officials from Malaysia to the MH17 crash site, and ICAO investigators are on their way.

10.56PM: Malaysia Airlines responds to reports that MH004 flew over Syria airspace, says its flight plan was in accordance with ICAO rules.

9.45PM: Russia's Defence Ministry says Ukrainian warplanes had flown close to MH17, and rejects accusations that Russia supplied the separatist rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile systems, or any other weapons. But a Ukrainian security source said Kiev stands by the information indicating that rebels in eastern Ukraine received a BUK-M1 (SA-11) radar-guided missile system from Russia, most likely with a crew. 

9PM: Malaysia Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai met with a special ambassador for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Ukraine today. The OSCE has met with reported difficulties in accessing the crash site, and Mr Liow had earlier tweeted that he was "very concerned" about the delay in sending the victims' remains to Kiev.

8.21PM: The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Singapore and Brunei has opened a book of condolences in memory of the victims of MH17, and it will be available for signing at the embassy until Wednesday afternoon. The international online condolence book can be found here.



7.19PM: Russia President Vladimir Putin will meet his advisory Security Council on Tuesday to discuss issues linked to "safeguarding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation," the Kremlin said in a statement. Meanwhile, Britain warns of sectoral sanctions for Russia unless it grants full access to the crash site and stopped stoking instability in Ukraine. 

6.19PM: Malaysia Airlines announces it is offering financial assistance of US$5,000 to the families of each MH17 passenger, and that this will not be offset against the final compensation nor affect the families’ legal rights to claim".  Full statement below:

5.45PM: The head of a Dutch forensic team said a train carrying the remains of victims should set off later today to a place where "we can do our work".

"The train is going. We don't know the time and we don't know the destination. We got a promise: today it is going," he told reporters at the railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez. "I just want the train to go to a place where we can do our work. And that is in the interest of everybody, especially the families of the victims."

Earlier reports stated that each of the train wagons carrying the corpses was opened and examined by two men wearing masks and headlights. The stench from the wagon was overpowering and, contrary to claims that the carriages were refrigerated, there was little sign that the remains in black body bags were being chilled.

5PM: "All political, economic and financial options" are on the table if access to MH17 crash site does not improve, said Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte in parliament. "It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground." 193 of the passengers in the Malaysia Airlines plane were Dutch.

4.30PM: "Ukraine is ready to hand over a coordinating role in the investigation into the tragedy to our Western partners. And the Netherlands could head that process," Ukraine prime minister Arseny Yatseniuk said at a news conference.

"At the moment, we have no doubt that the plane was shot down. The reason for it - a missile strike most likely from a BUK-M1 (SA-11 radar guided missile system). It is clear that this system could not be operated by drunk pro-Russian terrorists. There were professional people," he said, reiterating Kiev's charge that Moscow had a clear role in shooting down the plane.

4PM: Intense shelling in the area around the train station in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, says an AFP reporter at the scene. Insurgent fighters had closed off the roads in the area, and civilians are fleeing in minibuses and on foot.   


3.34PM: British broadcaster Sky News has apologised after one of its presenters searched through luggage at the MH17 crash site live on air on Sunday, AFP reports.

In a news broadcast, presenter Colin Brazier was shown rooting through personal belongings in an opened suitcase at the site, before saying: “We shouldn’t really be doing this.”

“Today whilst presenting from the site of the MH17 air crash Colin Brazier reflected on the human tragedy of the event and showed audiences the content of one of the victims’ bags,” a Sky News spokesman said. “Colin immediately recognised that this was inappropriate and said so on air. Both Colin and Sky News apologise profusely for any offence caused.”

3.08PM: Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised comments on Monday that the MH17 disaster must not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site, Reuters reports.

Mr Putin reiterated that the incident would not have happened if the Ukrainian government had not ended a truce and resumed a military campaign against the pro-Russian separatists.

"However nobody should – and no one has the right to – use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends. Such events should not divide people, but unite them," he said.

2.58PM: Russia will support a United Nations resolution that would guarantee international investigators unfettered access to the MH17 crash site – as long as it does not blame Moscow, its ambassador to Australia told the Australian Financial Review on Monday.

"This resolution is supported by Russia ... so long as it does not blame somebody," Ambassador Vladimir Morozov was quoted as saying.

2.41PM: Families of the deceased crew members on board flight MH17 will receive compensation from Malaysia’s Social Security Organisation soon, the New Straits Times reports.

Human Resources Minister Richard Riot Jaem said the next-of-kin of the 15 crew members will receive a one-off funeral payout of RM1,500 (S$587) and a monthly pension of at least RM475.

“We are also determining the other 10 adult Malaysian passengers on board the flight that are eligible for the payout,” he said at a press conference at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on Monday.

2.17PM: UMNO Youth will hold a solidarity walk for MH17 victims on Tuesday at 3.30pm, Malaysian radio station BFM 89.9 says. More details to be announced.

2.09PM: Rescuers have found 251 bodies and 86 fragments of bodies by late Sunday at the MH17 crash site, and a second train with refrigerator wagons to take the remains away has arrived, Reuters reports, citing a Ukrainian government committee.

However, the first train where the remains of almost 200 victims have been placed was stuck in the station in the rebel-held town of Torez because “terrorists are blocking its exit,” the committee said in a statement.

1.58PM: The Australian government is considering designating the MH17 disaster as a terrorist attack, which would trigger compensation payments to the families of Australian victims, Mr Abbott said on Monday.

1.31PM: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has sent former defence force chief Angus Houston, who led the international search for missing Malaysia Airlines MH370, to Kiev. Mr Houston will head a 45-man team from Australia to oversee the recovery of bodies and to ensure “justice is done”, Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott has described the situation at the crash site as “shambolic”, and demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin back up assurances with action.

"As anyone who has been watching the footage will know, this is still an absolutely shambolic situation," he said. "The site is being treated more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation."

11.58AM: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak took to Twitter on Monday to call for all parties involved to work together to bring back the remains of Malaysian citizens on board flight MH17.

“I demand that all parties involved cooperate in helping us bring back home the remains of Malaysians (on board flight MH17) before Hari Raya Aidilfitri,” he wrote.

11.23AM: Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has cancelled a press conference on MH17 initially scheduled for 2pm. No reasons were given for the cancellation. However, the minister posted a tweet saying that Transport MInister Liow Tiong Lai will be giving a press conference in Kiev later today.

In a separate tweet replying to Channel NewsAsia, Mr Hishammuddin said Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman would arrive in Kiev later today.

10.42AM: Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised to cooperate with outraged world leaders seeking access to the site of downed flight MH17, after US Secretary of State John Kerry said the missile system used to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines jet was "transferred from Russia in the hands of separatists".

9.39AM: Malaysian Transport Minister said early Monday that Malaysia is demanding immediate and unrestricted access to the MH17 crash site and guaranteed safety for its officials and those of the joint international investigation team. Mr Liow, who arrived in Kiev on Sunday, also said Malaysia also demanded that all human remains must be allowed to be recovered, identified and repatriated.

He noted that the only international body that has so far managed to briefly access to the crash site is the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

8.16AM: The United Nations (UN) Security Council is expected to consider on Monday a resolution demanding that separatists provide "full and unrestricted access" to the crash site. The document, proposed by Australia and co-sponsored by countries like France, also calls on all actors in the region to fully cooperate in an international probe of the incident.

It demands that all military activities, including by armed groups, be "immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for security and safety of the international investigation."

A vote has been set for Monday at 3pm in New York (3am on Tuesday, Singapore time). Russia, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has the right to exercise its veto power to scrap the resolution.

5.27AM: Russian President Vladimir Putin has promised Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte his cooperation in retrieving bodies and black boxes from the rebel-held crash site. Mr Putin is believed to exert influence on the pro-Russia rebels.

"Besides allowing unrestricted access to the crash site, the conversation focused on practical matters, namely the departure of the train that has many bodies and the handing over of the black boxes," a spokeswoman for the Dutch government press service RVD said.

4.40AM: British Prime Minister David Cameron has told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call that the shooting down of the MH17 passenger plane was "totally unacceptable" and appeared to be the work of Russian separatists. Mr Cameron also urged Mr Putin to use his influence with pro-Russian separatists to ensure experts can access the site of the crash – which killed 298 people including 10 Britons – to collect evidence and repatriate the victims.

Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Sunday that international forensic experts will finally reach the rebel-held crash site on Monday. "The OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) intends early tomorrow to take the identification mission, with the Dutch experts, to the site," Mr Rutte said, adding that the Dutch would be coordinating the task of identifying the 298 dead, which includes 193 Netherlands citizens.

1.05AM: Australia has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution demanding that pro-Russian separatists provide "full and unfettered access" to the crash site of MH17 in eastern Ukraine, diplomats said. The document – which could be put to a vote as early as Monday – also calls on everyone in the region to fully cooperate in an international probe of the incident. 27 of the 298 killed on board MH17 were Australian citizens.

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