(AFP) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday it was essential for international investigators to be granted safe access to the crash site of flight MH17 in Ukraine.
In a video address released by the Kremlin in the early hours of Monday, Putin vowed that Russia will do all it can to bring about a settlement of the Ukraine conflict following the downing of the Malaysian passenger plane last week.
“Russia will do everything in its power so that the conflict in eastern Ukraine moves from today’s military phase to the phase of negotiations by peaceful and diplomatic means,” he said.
Western leaders are demanding Putin use his influence to persuade the rebels controlling the crash site in eastern Ukraine to hand over the bodies of the 298 victims and allow international investigators full access.
Putin said it was “essential” for experts mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organisation to be granted access to the rebel-held site.
While he promised no concrete steps by Moscow, he said “absolutely everything must be done for their full security and to guarantee the humanitarian corridors necessary for their work”.
Kiev says the Boeing was shot down with a surface-to-air missile by a system that was brought to eastern Ukraine from Russia, while Washington has also pointed the finger of blame at Moscow.
The Russian leader reiterated his claim that the Malaysia Airlines crash would not have happened if Kiev had not resumed its military operation against pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
“We can say with certainty that if military actions in eastern Ukraine had not resumed on June 28, this tragedy would most likely not have occurred,” Putin said.
“With that said, nobody has the right to use this tragedy for their narrow selfish political ends,” he said from his Moscow region residence.