World demands answers on Malaysia airline downing

New Delhi: After what could be called a double-disaster for Malaysian Airlines this year, there is strong global demand of probe into the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine in which all 298 people on board were killed, a tragedy that could further heighten tensions between Russia and the West.

A US official on Friday said Washington strongly suspected a surface-to-air missile that downed the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on Thursday was fired by Ukrainian separatists backed by Moscow. There was no evidence that Ukrainian government forces fired a missile, said the official. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also condoled the loss of lives in the Malaysian airline tragedy and said India stands with the families of victims in this hour of grief. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their lives on board Flight MH17. We stand with them in this hour of grief,” he tweeted.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott appeared to go further than other Western leaders in apportioning blame, demanding on Friday that Moscow answer questions about the “Russian-backed rebels” that he said were behind the disaster.

Russian President Vladimir Putin – at loggerheads with the West over his policies toward Ukraine –pinned the blame on Kiev for renewing its offensive against rebels two weeks ago after a ceasefire failed to hold. The Kremlin leader called it a “tragedy” but did not say who brought the Boeing 777 down.

In Malaysia, there was a sense of disbelief that another airline disaster could strike so soon.
“If it transpires that the plane was indeed shot down, we insist that the perpetrators must swiftly be brought to justice,” Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said. “This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia.” 

US President Barack Obama, who spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte as well as other leaders, said evidence from the crash must remain in Ukraine so international investigators have a chance to look at all of it, officials said.

“The president and prime minister (Rutte) agreed on the need to assure immediate access to the site of the incident to international investigators in order to facilitate the recovery of remains and to carry out a thorough investigation,” the White House said.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also called for a transparent international investigation of the incident.

The Netherlands declared a day of national mourning for its 154 dead. Twenty-eight passengers were Malaysian, 27 Australian, 12 Indonesian, nine British, four German, four Belgian, three Filipino and one Canadian. All 15 crew were Malaysian. Nationalities of the others aboard were unclear.

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