UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council is due to vote Monday on a resolution that would condemn the downing of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine and demands that those responsible be held accountable and that armed groups don’t compromise the crash site integrity.
While Russia engaged in negotiations with the 15-member council on the resolution - drafted by Australia which lost 28 citizens - it was unclear if it would support the final version, said diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity.
In an apparent bid to compromise with Moscow, the wording of the condemnation was change to characterize the incident as the “downing” of the Malaysia Airlines flight - with 298 people on board - instead of “shooting down,” according to the final draft obtained by Reuters.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fueling a pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine’s attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.
Moscow denies any involvement in shooting down the airliner and has blamed the Ukrainian military. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put forward on Sunday the most detailed accusations so far that Russia provided insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions.
The draft U.N. resolution “demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability” and “calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans are due to be at the United Nations for the vote on the resolution, said diplomats. The Netherlands lost 189 citizens on the flight to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam.
The draft resolution “expresses grave concern at reports of insufficient and limited access to the crash site.”
It “demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site ... and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area for the appropriate investigating authorities.”International monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visited part of the crash site for a third day on Sunday. They said on Saturday that gunmen had stopped them approaching some of the wreckage.
The draft resolution also “insists that the bodies of the victims are treated in a dignified, respectful and professional manner and calls upon all parties concerned to ensure that this happens with immediate effect.”
Television images of the rebel-held crash sites, where the remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among their personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrow after Thursday’s disaster into anger. The bodies had been removed from much of the crash site by Sunday.
The Security Council issued a statement on Friday calling for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation,” access to the site and appropriate accountability. Britain drafted the text and hoped the council could issue it on Thursday but Russia requested more time.
Editing by Robert Birsel and Andrea Ricci