14
Search AOL Mail
AOL Mail
Video
Video
AOL Favorites
Favorites
Menu

Putin urges Ukraine cease-fire after plane attack



By PETER LEONARD and DMITRY LOVETSKY

ROZSYPNE, Ukraine (AP) -- Emergency workers, police officers and even off-duty coal miners spread out Friday across the sunflower fields and villages of eastern Ukraine, searching the wreckage of a Malaysia Airlines jet shot down as it flew miles above the country's battlefield.

The attack Thursday afternoon killed 298 people from nearly a dozen nations - including vacationers, students and a large contingent of scientists heading to an AIDS conference in Australia. At least 189 of the dead were from the Netherlands.

U.S. intelligence authorities said a surface-to-air missile brought down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, but they did not speculate on who fired it. The Ukrainian government in Kiev, the separatist pro-Russia rebels they are fighting and the Russia government that Ukraine accuses of supporting the rebels all denied shooting the plane down. Moscow also denies backing the rebels.

After holding an emergency session, the U.N. Security Council called for "a full, thorough and independent international investigation" into the downing of the plane.

Russian President Vladimir Putin called Friday for a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine and urged the two sides to hold peace talks as soon as possible. A day earlier, Putin had blamed Ukraine for the crash, saying Kiev was responsible for the unrest in its Russian-speaking eastern regions. But he did not accuse Ukraine of shooting the plane down and did not address the key question of whether Russia gave the rebels such a powerful missile.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry released a video purporting to show a truck carrying the Buk missile launcher it said was used to fire on the plane with one of its four missiles apparently missing. The ministry said the footage was filmed by a police surveillance squad at dawn Friday as the truck was heading to the city of Krasnodon toward the Russian border.

There was no way to independently verify the video.

Access to the sprawling crash site remained difficult and dangerous. The road into it from Donetsk, the largest city in the region, was marked by five rebel checkpoints Friday, with document checks at each.

By midday, 181 bodies had been located, according to local emergency workers in contact with officials in Kiev. In addition to the Dutch, passengers on the plane included 29 Malaysians, 28 Australians, 12 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and one person each from Canada, New Zealand and Hong Kong, according to the airlines and those governments.

Still Nataliya Bystro, a spokeswoman for Ukraine's emergency services, said rebel militiamen were interfering with the recovery operation. She did not elaborate.

Separatist rebels who control the crash site issued conflicting reports Friday about whether they had found the plane's black boxes or not.

"No black boxes have been found ... we hope that experts will track them down and create a picture of what has happened," said Donetsk separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai.

Yet earlier Friday, an aide to the military leader of Borodai's group said authorities had recovered eight out of 12 recording devices. Since planes usually have two black boxes - one for recording flight data and the other for recording cockpit voices - it was not clear what he was referring to.

Borodai said 17 representatives from the Organization for Security and Cooperation and four Ukrainian experts had traveled into rebel-controlled areas to begin an investigation into the attack.

Ukraine's state aviation service closed the airspace Friday over two border regions gripped by separatist fighting - Donetsk and Luhansk - and Russian airlines suspended all flights over Ukraine.

The crash site was spread out over fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine - Rozsypne and Hrabove. In the distance, the thud of Grad missile launchers being fired could be heard Friday morning.

In the sunflower fields around Rozsypne, 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Russian border, lines of men disappeared into thick, tall growth that reached over their heads. One fainted after finding a body. Another body was covered in a coat.

About 70 off-duty coal miners joined the search, their faces still sooty from work.

In Hrabove, several miles away, large numbers of sticks, some made from tree branches, were affixed with red or white rags to mark spots where body parts were found.

Ukraine Foreign Ministry representative Andriy Sybiga said the bodies will be taken to Kharkiv, a government-controlled city 270 kilometers (170 miles) to the north, for identification.

Among the debris were smashed watches and mobile phones, charred boarding passes and passports. An "I (heart) Amsterdam" T-shirt and a guidebook to Bali hinted at holiday plans gone awry.

Large chunks of the Boeing 777 that bore the airline's red, white and blue markings lay strewn over one field. The cockpit and one turbine lay a kilometer (a half-mile) apart, and the tail landed 10 kilometers (six miles) away. One rebel militiaman in Rozsypne told The Associated Press the plane's fuselage showed signs of being struck by a projectile.

The area has seen heavy fighting between government troops and pro-Russia separatists, and rebels had bragged about shooting down two Ukrainian military jets Wednesday in the region.

Anton Gerashenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior minister, said the plane was flying at about 10,000 meters (33,000 feet) when it was hit by a missile from a Buk launcher, which can fire up to an altitude of 22,000 meters (72,000 feet). Malaysia's prime minister said there was no distress call before the plane went down.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott demanded an independent inquiry into the downing.

"The initial response of the Russian ambassador was to blame Ukraine for this and I have to say that is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory," he said. "It's very important that we don't allow Russia to prevent an absolutely comprehensive investigation so that we can find out exactly what happened here."

"This is not an accident, it's a crime," he added.

For his part, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed Kiev's accusations that Moscow could be behind the attack.

"Regarding those claims from Kiev that we allegedly did it ourselves: I have not heard a truthful statement from Kiev for months," he told the Rossiya 24 television channel.

He also said Russia has no intention of getting its hands on the plane's black boxes and added they should be given to international aviation organizations.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk described the attack as an "international crime" whose perpetrators should be punished in an international tribunal.

"Yesterday's terrible tragedy will change our lives. The Russians have done it now," he was cited as saying by the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lay insisted again Friday that the airline's path was an internationally approved route and denied accusations that Malaysia Airlines was trying to save fuel and money by taking a more direct flight path across Ukraine.

"I want to stress that this route is an approved path that is used by many airlines including 15 Asia-Pacific airlines. We have not been informed that the path cannot be used," he said.

Aviation authorities in several countries, including the FAA in the United States, had issued previous warnings not to fly over parts of Ukraine after Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in March. Within hours of the crash Thursday, several airlines announced they were avoiding parts of Ukrainian airspace.

Passengers on the plane included a large contingent of world-renowned AIDS researchers and activists headed to an international AIDS conference in Melbourne, Australia. News of their deaths sparked an outpouring of grief across the global scientific community.

In the Netherlands, flags were flying at half-staff as residents mourned the victims.

At the Tour de France cycling race, riders observed a minute of silence for the victims before the start of the day's stage in Saint-Etienne. The Dutch team Belkin wore black armbands.

For one Australian family, the Ukraine crash represented an almost unbelievable double tragedy.

Kaylene Mann's brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows were on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 when it vanished in March over the Indian Ocean. On Friday, Mann found out that her stepdaughter, Maree Rizk, was killed on Flight 17.

"It's just brought everyone, everything back," said Greg Burrows, Mann's brother. "It's just ... ripped our guts again."

---

Leonard reported from Kiev. Others who contributed included Yuras Karmanau in Kiev; Mstyslav Chernov in Rozsypne, Ukraine; Nataliya Vasilyeva and Laura Mills in Moscow; Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Edith Leherer in New York; and Eileen Ng and Satish Cheney in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

More coverage of Flight MH17 on AOL.com:

Malaysia Airlines crash kills hundreds from nuns to AIDS experts
Confusion over whether Malaysia black boxes found
Dutch flags at half-staff as nation mourns crash

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
debnaert July 18 2014 at 10:20 AM

This BASTARD PUTIN started this WAR and now he's asking them to cease fire? He is a devil in disguise! He KNOWS how the rest of the world is eying HIM and Russia as the perpetrators OF THIS WAR they brought to the Ukraine. NO way out for him now.... the world is pointing their fingers at HIM!

Flag Reply +65 rate up
21 replies
Leroy Gd July 18 2014 at 10:16 AM

obama is absent again.

Flag +56 rate up
50 replies
bronbronco27 July 18 2014 at 11:10 AM

Odumma is waiting for the news to end so he knows whats going on. He has to parrot the words of other news readers. Its tough trying to fundraise and play golf when these things interfere.

Flag Reply +35 rate up
13 replies
David July 18 2014 at 10:08 AM

To Putin (still a Stalinist at heart) a lie or the truth is the same thing, its only use is to justify the means.

Flag Reply +34 rate up
11 replies
Doctor Michael July 18 2014 at 10:04 AM

What a joke. Now that his allies have shot down a civilian airline, Putin wants a cease-fire? Why was he opposed to one before?

Flag Reply +33 rate up
7 replies
markschupp July 18 2014 at 10:36 AM

Psst. Putin, we will discuss this when I get elected to my 3rd. term.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
5 replies
markschupp July 18 2014 at 10:39 AM

Has Obas(LIB)turd apologized or bowed to anyone yet?

Flag Reply +21 rate up
16 replies
golffrdlrs July 18 2014 at 10:21 AM

The plane carried a large contingent of scientists on the way to an aids conference. This presents an interesting quandary for the religious. One side (the nuttiest side) will claim that aids is gods punishment to gays and god influenced the plane to be shot down to keep aids doing his work. The other side (less nutty) will have to reconcile that god would allow a group of people on the forefront of stopping the death and suffering of potentially millions to perish. This will require the usual twists and spins used to rationalize how an all knowing, omnipotent, fair god would let this happen. To the rest of us who aren't wearing god glasses we stand outside of both bubbles of delusion and can easily see that like the thousands of gods people believe in this whole event was MAN MADE.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
26 replies
markschupp July 18 2014 at 10:31 AM

Nobody is as good as the Putin/Obama Dynamic-Duo-of-Peace™.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
4 replies
daradams July 18 2014 at 10:17 AM

Something about the eyes and demeanor.... scary..

Flag Reply +7 rate up
aol~~ 1209600

Voting...

More From Our Partners