Putin, Lavrov, and Donbass Leaders Demand Full and Independent Investigation of MH17 Crash

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have further addressed the Ukraine civil war and Thursday’s downing of Flight MH17. In a condolence call to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost the greatest number of citizens in the crash, Putin called for “a comprehensive and objective international investigation into the circumstances and causes of the disaster,” adding that “this makes it all the more urgent to declare an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in southeast Ukraine.”

Putin returned to the matter during talks with Russian Orthodox Church leaders, with whom he met with Friday at the St. Sergius Monastery outside Moscow to mark the 700th anniversary of the birth of St. Sergius of Radonezh. Expressing “great concern and grief” over events in eastern Ukraine, Putin called for an immediate ceasefire. He said, “We are in contact with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, and I hope that he will succeed in offering the entire population of Ukraine, all of its people wherever they may live, a course that would ensure their legitimate rights and interests, and lead to lasting, complete and long-term peace in that country.”

The call for “an independent international investigation” was also one point in a lengthy interview Lavrov gave to Rossiya-24 TV Friday. He said that Russia is prepared to help the investigation, but that the initiative belongs to Ukraine, over whose territory the tragedy occurred.

Lavrov harshly rebuffed allegations from Kiev that “practically say Russia itself did this.” The Foreign Minister said, “In recent months I have not heard any truthful statements from the Kiev authorities. They say whatever they want.” As an example, he cited Poroshenko’s commitment not to fire on civilians—after which hundreds of civilians have been killed by the shelling of residential neighborhoods in the Donbass.

Lavrov welcomed the Donbass People’s Republic’s willingness for a truce during the plane crash investigation, saying that it is essential for international experts to visit the crash site as soon as possible, and, among other things, collect the plane’s black box recording devices. He denied reports that the boxes had been found and handed to Moscow by the militias, emphasizing that Russia has no plans to take them in violation of standard international procedure.

Alexander Boroday, Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), likewise denied that the militias had the black boxes. He said, “We have a militia, we don’t have aviation safety experts. Our people don’t even know what these black boxes look like. We hope that the experts will find them and, with or without their data, will be able to make a determination of what happened.”

Boroday’s deputy, Andrei Purgin, told Channel One Russia TV that video-conferencing between DPR representatives and Kiev had continued throughout the day, to arrange access to the crash site. OSCE monitors are the only international representatives to have arrived there, so far, while Ukrainian emergency personnel, evidently operating under the DPR, place markers in the field next to human remains and other pieces of the aircraft, and the militias guard the perimeter.

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