|Separatists Turn Over Downed Jet's Black Boxes 'Intact'|
|By KIRIT RADIA (@kiritradia) and TERRY MORAN (@TerryMoran)||Jul 21, 2014, 6:45 PM|
The two black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane that left 298 people dead were handed over today to Malaysian officials.
News media looked on as the transfer of the boxes was made late today. "I can see that the black boxes are intact, although a bit damaged. In good condition," said Malaysian Col. Mohamed Sakri.
Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said independent investigators will be given safe access to the debris site.
"In recent days, we have been working behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site," Razak said. "That contact has now been made. Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: Securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives."
Razak said he had spoken "to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred" and that "more work needed to be done."
In his statement, Razak also said that the bodies of the 282 people recovered, currently in the Ukrainian city of Torez, will "be moved" by train to Kiev, where Dutch officials will take them.
"The train will depart this evening ... and will be accompanied by six Malaysian members of the recovery team," he said. "The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, together with the Malaysian team. Following any necessary forensic work, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown home to Malaysia."
"I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," Razak added. "There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr. Borodai and his people have so far given their cooperation."
Pressure has been growing on Putin, who the U.S. and others say has backed and armed the rebels, to rein in the insurgents in Ukraine and allow a full-scale investigation. The rebels have been blamed around the world for downing the plane last Thursday, though Putin blamed Ukraine's government.
At a U.N. Security Council meeting this afternoon, Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, whose country lost 193 citizens, said his "first priority ... is to make sure that our people are brought home and are treated with the dignity they deserve," according to the Associated Press.
"It's about time that actions spoke louder than words on the side of the Russians," he added, before the Security Council unanimously adopted a measure calling for international access to the crash site.
After the vote, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power called on the Russians to use its influence to ensure that Russian-backed separatists comply with the resolution, the Associated Press reported.
"Russia's silence since Thursday sent a message to the illegal armed groups it supports: We have your backs. .... If Russia is not part of the solution, it will continue to be part of the problem," she said.
Moments before Razak's announcement, President Obama had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to compel" Russian-backed separatists to stop interfering with the probe.
Obama, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, said Russian-backed separatists needed to allow investigators to recover bodies. He said they had previously fired their weapons in the air when investigators approached the scene and have tampered with evidence at the crash site in the eastern Ukrainian town of Hrabove.
"Russia, and President Putin in particular, has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation," Obama said.
In a statement released prior to Obama's comments, Putin blamed Ukrainian authorities for reigniting fighting with the pro-Russian rebels who control the region.
"It is necessary that all the people who are responsible for the situation in the region improved their responsibility to their own people and to the peoples of those countries whose representatives have been victims of this disaster," the statement said.
ABC News' Dan Good, Colleen Curry, Erin Dooley and Mary Bruce contributed to this report