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Malaysia jet crash: Call for urgent investigation

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Debris at the crash site. Photo: APA/EPA/ALYONA ZYKINA
10:15 CEST+02:00
Austria's Chancellor Werner Faymann has called for a “rapid and comprehensive” investigation into the Malaysia Airlines jet crash and expressed his sympathy for the families of the victims. The plane crashed in pro-Russian separatist territory in eastern Ukraine and is believed to have been shot down.

All 298 passengers and crew members died when the Boeing 777, travelling from Amsterdam Schiphol to Kuala Lumpur, was blown out of the sky at 10,000 metres, by what US officials claim was a Russian-made surface to air missile.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has been monitoring the security situation in eastern Ukraine, is holding a crisis meeting at its headquarters in Vienna to discuss the crash.

Vice president of Malaysia Airlines Europe, Huib Gorter, confirmed on Thursday evening at Schiphol Airport that 154 Dutch were on the flight, along with 27 Australians, 23 Malaysians, 11 Indonesians, nine Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three Filipinos and a Canadian. It is not yet clear if any Austrian citizens were among the victims. There were no survivors.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukrainian government, saying the tragedy would not have happened if it had not escalated the war in eastern Ukraine, while the Kiev government blamed the pro-Russian rebels for shooting down the plane.

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine have said they will give international investigators access to the crash site.

The rebels vowed to secure the site and allow the recovery of bodies, the OSCE said.

The crash victims include world-renowned Dutch researcher Joep Lange who was among a number of passengers en route to an international Aids conference in Australia.

Ukraine has declared the area a no-fly zone, while other airlines have announced they are now setting flight paths to avoid eastern Ukraine.

Austria criticized

Philippe Migault, an expert on Ukraine from the Institute of International and Strategic Relations in Paris doubts European leaders will turn up the heat on Putin because there are too many economic interests at stake.

“France, like other European countries will condemn the incident and demand an inquiry as well as an end to fighting in the region, but they won’t go much further,” Migault told The Local. “I don’t think we will see any major change.”

“There are just too many interests at stake. The economic interests between the EU and Russia are just too great. We have seen the USA increase sanctions against Russia, but they have less at stake economically than countries like France and Germany,” he added.

Austria's opposition liberal NEOS party has called for tougher sanctions and an arms embargo on Russia. "Whilst Russia is infiltrating Ukraine with armed rebels, Austria is signing new economic agreements - at the very moment when the EU should be pushing for economic sanctions," said the party's foreign policy spokesman Christoph Vavrik.

Meanwhile, Austria's Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz is meeting with his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski in Warsaw today.

In an interview with Die Presse newspaper yesterday Sikorski said that he felt Austria had shown a "lack of solidarity" when it controversially received Putin for a state visit at the end of June.

He also called for the EU to impose tougher sanctions on Russia - such as banning exports of energy technologies.

 

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