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U.N. to vote on crash resolution; Russia reluctant

Jul. 21, 2014 - 12:09PM   |  
A masked pro-Russian rebel stands as Peter Van Vilet, center left, team leader of Netherlands' National Forensic Investigations Team, speaks Monday to members of the OSCE's mission to Ukraine, while inspecting a refrigerated train loaded with the bodies of passengers in Torez, eastern Ukraine, 9 miles from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
A masked pro-Russian rebel stands as Peter Van Vilet, center left, team leader of Netherlands' National Forensic Investigations Team, speaks Monday to members of the OSCE's mission to Ukraine, while inspecting a refrigerated train loaded with the bodies of passengers in Torez, eastern Ukraine, 9 miles from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (Vadim Ghirda / AP)
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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council will vote Monday on an Australia-proposed resolution demanding international access to the Ukraine plane crash site and a cease-fire around the area, with diplomats pressuring a reluctant Russia to approve it.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country would view a Russian veto of the resolution “very badly,” adding that “no reasonable person” could object to its wording.

“This is still an absolutely shambolic situation. It does look more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation,” he told reporters.

“Given the almost certain culpability of the Russian-backed rebels in the downing of the aircraft, having these people in control of the site is a little like leaving criminals in control of a crime scene,” Abbott added.

The United States has presented what it called “powerful” evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training. Other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash.

Russian officials have blamed Ukraine’s government for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed.

Security Council diplomats held consultations late Sunday until past midnight to work out key differences between Australia and Russia. The diplomats emerged cautiously optimistic that a resolution would be approved, but Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin would not guarantee it.

“It was a worthwhile session, so let’s see what the result is going to be tomorrow,” Churkin told reporters.

The resolution calls for pro-Russia separatists to allow access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines passenger jet carrying 298 people, including 37 Australian citizens and residents. It asks for the full cooperation of all countries in the region, including Russia.

Earlier Sunday, Churkin said Russia is concerned the draft “does not accurately reflect the need for an impartial, international investigation.”

He said Russia is proposing that the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, take the lead in the investigation. The current proposal welcomes “the decision by ICAO to send a team to assist” Ukrainian investigators.

Council ambassadors did not say if an agreement on that point had been reached Sunday.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said the council will vote Monday afternoon and “we hope it will be unanimous” in favor of the resolution. Earlier, Lyall Grant accused Russia of proposing one amendment after another to delay passage of the resolution.

“It looks like a typical Russian delay in tactics, and one can guess why they want delay,” Lyall Grant told reporters.

Russia has the power to veto the resolution as a permanent council member.

Emerging from the U.N. meeting, both U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi said “hope so” when asked if there was agreement on the resolution.

Australia’s foreign minister, Julie Bishop, said she expects all 15 council members to support her country’s proposal, co-sponsored by France and Lithuania.

“Australia has a lot at stake here,” Bishop said. “They have been murdered, and the Australian government will not rest until we’re able to bring the bodies home to the Australian families who are waiting for them.”

The resolution also demands that armed groups who control the crash site do not disturb debris, belongings or victims’ remains.

Churkin said Russia had proposed “a cease-fire around the crash site” and that Australia had accepted that idea. He did not say how large the cease-fire area would be.

Earlier, Abbott said Russian President Vladimir Putin “said all the right things” during a telephone conversation about ensuring an international investigation into the disaster.

———

AP writer Rod McGuirk contributed from Australia. Associated Press writers Edith M. Lederer and Cara Anna in New York contributed to this report.

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