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LIVE BLOG: MH17 crash aftermath, July 19

Malaysia Airlines MH17 carrying 298 people has crashed in eastern Ukraine, after being allegedly shot down by militants. Follow our live coverage in the aftermath of the crash.

This live blog is now closed. For the latest updates on the MH17 crash, visit our new live blog here.

All times listed are Singapore/Kuala Lumpur time.

10.25PM: AFP reports that Dutch police on Saturday sent teams to visit relatives of the 192 Dutch nationals killed in the MH17 crash to collect DNA and other data to help identify the dead.

10.15PM: Reuters reports that Russia has called on Ukraine's authorities and rebels to give international experts access to the MH17 crash site. "The Russian side appeals to both sides of the Ukrainian conflict, urging them to do everything possible to enable access for international experts to the airplane crash area in order to take action necessary for the investigation," Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

9.55PM: The Ukrainian air traffic control did not permit Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 to scale 35,000 feet, the airline’s director of operations, Captain Izham Ismail, said on Saturday. He said MH17 planned to fly at 35,000 feet but according to the air traffic control, there was other traffic at that time, and the plane was ordered to fly at the next best altitude at 33,000 feet, which was above the restricted altitude.

9.30PM: Malaysia Airlines has released the passenger manifest of flight MH17 on its website. An extract of the manifest is below:

Malaysia Airlines is also appealing to the family members or friends of those on board the flight to contact the airline.

9.26PM: Singapore Airlines has apologised for what it said was an “insensitive” post on social media following the MH17 crash.

8.16PM: AFP reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Vladimir Putin have agreed for an international investigation into the downing of MH17, and for rapid access to the crash site.

The two leaders, who spoke on the telephone, "agreed that an international, independent commission under the direction of ICAO (UN's International Civil Aviation Organization) should quickly have access to the site of the accident... to shed light on the circumstances of the crash and move the victims," said a German government statement.

A Kremlin statement on the same phone call said that "both sides stressed the importance of a thorough and objective investigation of all circumstances relating to what has happened."

Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Ukrainian emergency workers have begun moving victims' bodies from the MH17 crash site.

8.05PM: Reuters reports that a rebel leader has appealed to Russia for help with worsening conditions at the crash site, and accused the Ukrainian government of preventing experts from arriving and allowing bodies to rot.

Aleksander Borodai, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said at a news conference on Saturday: "Bodies of innocent people are lying out in the heat. We reserve the right, if the delay continues ... to begin the process of taking away the bodies. We ask the Russian Federation to help us with this problem and send their experts."

Borodai said he did not know where the plane’s black box flight recorders were. "The black boxes have not been found and we are not touching the site," he said.

Self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai (C), at the MH17 crash site. (Photo: AFP/Dominique Faget)

7.33PM: RT.com reports that forensic experts from international policing organisation
Interpol and the European Union's policing organisation Europol will on Sunday head to Kiev to assist in identifying the victims of the crash.

7.20PM: Russia has fought back against claims of its involvement in the downing of flight MH17, instead implying that the Ukrainian government might be responsible. Russian deputy defence minister Anatoly Antonov said on Saturday that Kiev should release details regarding its alleged use of Buk missile systems in eastern Ukraine, and explain why they were being operated if separatists don't possess aircraft.

7.13PM: Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas has set up a fund for the families of MH17 victims and will contribute RM10 million (S$3.9 million) to the fund, the company said on Saturday. Petronas is also calling on other companies both within and outside the oil and gas industry to contribute to the fund.

6.25PM: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has taken to Twitter to express his condolences after meeting with families of the MH17 victims today.

5.58PM: Ukraine has accused Russia of helping separatist insurgents destroy evidence at the MH17 crash site. "Terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime," Ukraine's government said in a statement. Separatist forces were also blocking access to the site for Ukrainian investigators and international observers, and searching for lorries to transport the wreckage to Russia, the statement claimed.

5.27PM: Malaysia Airlines will release the full passenger manifest of flight MH17 this evening, Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai says.

5.06PM: Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai speaking at press conference for MH17 now. He says the crash site has not been properly secured and vital evidence is not being preserved, and calls for the integrity of the site to be protected. "Citizens of 11 nations - none of whom are involved in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine - cannot be laid to rest. Their lives were taken by violence; now violence stops them being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue."

A team from Malaysia, including Malaysia Airlines CEO Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, is in Kiev now but still has no access to the crash site, Mr Liow says. There has also been no confirmation on the status of the plane's black box. Mr Liow says he will join the Malaysian team in Kiev tonight to support the efforts in recovering remains of victims.

According to Eurocontrol officials, 75 airlines flew the same path as MH17 in the two days before the incident, Mr Liow says. The flight path was like a highway in the sky - commonly used by airlines. MH17 did not deviate from the flight path, and there was no hurricane in the vicinity as some reports have claimed, he says. The rules of war were broken on the ground, and those who shot down the plane must face the "full force of justice without delay". "We want and demand justice," he says.

4.05PM: Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a press conference in Sydney on Saturday that the OSCE monitoring team gained "temporary access to the (crash site) but it was driven off by gunfire, presumably from the Russian-backed rebels".

Mr Abbott also said Russia can't "wash its hands" off the disaster. "The evidence at this stage suggests that this aircraft was shot down from territory controlled by Russian-backed rebels, by Russian-backed rebels, most likely using equipment supplied by the Russians,” he said.

3.45PM: Channel NewsAsia's Malaysia Bureau Chief Melissa Goh asked Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein: "Are you angry Malaysia is being used as a pawn (in the Ukraine-Russia conflict)?"

Mr Hishammuddin replied: "What can we do? I am the Minister of Defence. My grandmother's in that position (of being a pawn). Just being angry is not going to help."

The exchange took place at the Marriott Hotel where the Defence Minister was as he met up with family members of the MH17 crash victims. He posted the following on his Twitter account:

3.17PM: Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak posted on Twitter, stating that the national flag will fly at half-mast until Monday (July 21) as a sign of mourning for those onboard the downed MH17 plane.

2.50PM: Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels have agreed on a security zone around the crash site of MH17, said AFP.

The news agency quoted Ukrainian Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, who said in televised remarks that internationally mediated talks "concluded with an agreement to set up a 20-kilometre security zone so that Ukraine could fulfil the most important thing - identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives". 

2.30PM: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine said in a press release that the first meeting of the Governmental Commission on investigating the causes of the MH17 crash took place on Friday, July 18.

The State Commission agreed to adopt the following measures following the meeting:

  • bodies of the perished are to be transported to Kharkiv, where a special laboratory and coordination unit are being deployed;

  • arranging free hotel accommodation of 300 rooms each in Kyiv and Kharkiv for the relatives of the crash victims;

  • ensuring that these relatives arriving to Kyiv and Kharkiv are met and escorted;

  • for those who need entry visas, these will be issued in Kyiv and Kharkiv

The Ministry added: "Situation on the place of the catastrophe is dynamic. Our efforts to arrange the procedures in a proper way are being impeded by the terrorists."

It also announced it had set up a crisis response unit, "in connection with the terroristic act committed against the Malaysia Airlines Boeing-777, which crashed in Ukraine on July 17, 2014".

There are also crisis response units in the Embassy of Ukraine in Malaysia and the Netherlands. The contact details are:

EMBASSY OF UKRAINE, MALAYSIA

Phone: +603 21669552, +6016 2614707

Fax: +603 21664371

Email: emb_my@mfa.gov.ua

EMBASSY OF UKRAINE, NETHERLANDS

Phone: +31 (70) 3626095

Fax: +31 (70) 3615565

Email: emb_nl@mfa.gov.ua and embukr@wxs.nl

1.42PM: International AIDS Society President Francoise Barre-Sinoussi said on Saturday that six colleagues, and not the 100 reported, were on the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

She said: "The number that we have confirmed through our contacts with authorities in Australia, in Malaysia and Dutch authorities is six people. It may be a little bit more, but not the numbers that have been announced."

The number of delegates flying to the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne on MH17 was thought to be high after a tweet by UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe. He said on Saturday morning: "The deaths of so many heroes working against #HIV in #MH17 tragedy is profound loss for #AIDS response."

12.56PM: Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said during a media briefing on Saturday that he would be flying out to Kiev, Ukraine, today. He added: "We have sent our team to Kiev, and we will make sure that we have safe corridor to access the (crash) site. The Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and Minister of Foreign Affairs will be assisting to ensure that we get access to the area."

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said during the same briefing: "From the Ministry of Defence side, it is very clear that our first priority is to get to the site, and to ensure that any investigation team going to the site has got proper security, and any debris from the site is not tampered with."

Initial efforts by international monitors to gain full access to the crash site have been impeded by pro-Russian separatists, according to AFP. It said the observers from OSCE were blocked from fully accessing the sites by armed rebels "for their own" safety.

12.22PM: Opposition politician Anwar Ibrahim issued a statement on Saturday on the downed MH17 plane, saying that he declares "full support for the call by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak for an emergency parliamentary sitting on the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17".

Mr Anwar also said: "We in Pakatan are totally committed to any resolution to categorically condemn the mass murder committed by the perpetrators. In this regard, the Prime Minister must be unequivocal in naming the party or parties responsible, whoever they may be.

"We also fully support the demand that the culprits of this crime be brought to justice and that all necessary measures be taken to facilitate a swift, effective and independent investigation.

"This is indeed a time of grief and sadness for all Malaysians, as it is too for others, and we urge all parties to refrain from making statements or remarks that are insensitive to the feelings of the families and loved ones of the innocent victims."

12.00PM: Malaysia Airlines has confirmed the nationalities of the 298 passengers and crew on board MH17; of the four unverified from Friday's list, three were from the Netherlands and one was from the United Kingdom.

It said in a media statement issued at 11.40am: "Malaysia Airlines is working closely with the respective embassies to notify the next-of-kin of the passengers. Our focus now is to work with the emergency responders and authorities and mobilise its full support to provide all possible care to the next-of-kin.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all affected passengers and crew and their family members."

11.26AM: The step-grandmother of Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Sri Siti Amirah, was on board the Malaysia Airlines plane that crashed in Ukraine. Mr Hishammuddin posted on his Twitter account on Saturday: "My step grandmother was on the flight. Pls pray 4 her."

The mothers of Mr Najib and Mr Hishammuddin are siblings, making the Prime Minister and Defence Minister cousins.

10.55AM: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told reporters late Friday that he spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone to stress the need for an objective, unfettered probe into the MH17 crash. "I also told Putin that the site should not be tampered (with) before the team begins its investigation," Mr Najib reportedly told Malaysian news agency Bernama.

His comments came as a 62-strong Malaysian disaster response team, including two air accident investigators, was due in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday.

10.15AM: Malaysia Airlines issued a media statement on Saturday (July 19), saying that in light of the MH17 incident, it will be waiving any fees charged for passengers who wish to make changes to their itinerary to any MH destinations. The waivers are only applicable from July 18 to July 24, 2014, for travel between July 18 until Dec 31, it said. This is a change from the previous advisory sent on Friday, which said the airline will waive all fees for changes to travel from July 18 until next Friday, July 25.

The full statement is reproduced below:

9.55AM: With the aftermath of the MH17 crash continuing to unfold, here is a recap of the major news points that happened on Friday (July 18):

  • Interpol said experts from its disaster identification squad and missing people's units will be deployed to the site in the next 48 hours to help identify victims killed by the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in east Ukraine. A 30-person team of international monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had earlier reached the crash site.

  • Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed Malaysians on TV late Friday night, saying that although it's believed the plane was shot down, Malaysia will not point fingers until the information is verified. He also announced that the nation will be in mourning until Monday, July 21.

  • Members of the United Nations Security Council demanded a full, independent investigation into the apparent shooting down of a Malaysian passenger plane over Ukraine that resulted in nearly 300 people losing their lives - among them 80 children.  A joint statement called for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation... in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines and for appropriate accountability".

  • United States President Barack Obama said a surface-to-air missile fired from the separatist-held territory in eastern Ukraine was to blame for the "unspeakable" downing of the Malaysian airliner. He also called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to control pro-Moscow rebels in Ukraine, saying they would not have been able to hit an airliner flying at 30,000 feet without Russian equipment and training.

  • The Russian-made "Buk" missile system emerged as the most likely cause of the suspected downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. Defence experts said missiles launched from the system is capable of soaring to the height of a civilian airliner like MH17, unlike more widely available shoulder-launched weapons.

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