SEPANG - Malaysia is frantically trying to get assistance to secure the site where Flight MH17 crashed even as drunken rebels loot the wreckage, rob the dead and keep investigators out.
A member of an international team of monitors described the area of the crash as "the biggest crime scene in the world".
He also stressed the need for a lot of "professional work" to be done at the site "very, very, quickly".
Understanding the urgency, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai left for Ukraine last night to join the Malaysian Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team and meet his counterpart Maksym Burbak for help to get access to the site.
At a press conference hours before departing, he called on all parties to protect the integrity of the site where the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down.
"The integrity of the site has been compromised, and there are indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place.
"Interfering with the scene of the crash risks undermining the investigation itself. Any action that prevents us from learning the truth about what happened to MH17 cannot be tolerated," Liow said.
"Failure to stop such interference would be a betrayal of the lives that were lost.
"We urge all those involved to respect the families and the nations who have lost their sons and daughters in this attack."
Liow said Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was in communication with several world leaders in the past two days, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Barack Obama and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to seek support to have full access to the site.
The Prime Minister emphasised the need to have a safe path to enter the site to retrieve the remains of the passengers and crew as soon as possible.
Latest update: Liow, Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (left) and Deputy Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari speaking to the press at a hotel in KLIA. Latest update: Liow, Department of Civil Aviation director-general Datuk Azharuddin Abdul Rahman (left) and Deputy Communication and Multimedia Minister Datuk Jailani Johari speaking to the press at a hotel in KLIA.
"Citizens of 11 nations, none of which is involved in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, cannot be laid to rest. Their lives were taken by violence. Now violence stops them being accorded their final respect. This cannot continue," Liow said.
To a question, he said he understood that the Russian government was trying its best to help Malaysia.
"If they (the rebels) don't allow us to go in, this in inhumane. That is why we are calling on the UN to assist in having a ceasefire in the area to make the site a safe corridor.
"We need the support of the world to ensure that the site is not tampered with and we must have full access to it," he added.
In rebel-held Grabovo in eastern Ukraine earlier yesterday, gunmen, including some who appeared intoxicated, reportedly prevented a team of international monitors from gaining full access to the crash site.
According to US-based NBC News, a spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, whose team of observers was at the site, described the gunmen as rude and unprofessional.
Michael Bociurkiw said their task was made very difficult and they could stay at the site for only 75 minutes.
"Victims' bodies appeared to be untouched," he said, adding that items from the wreckage were arranged in piles as if for show.
Bociurkiw told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that the perimeter of the site was not secure whatsoever.
"It basically looks like the biggest crime scene in the world right now, guarded by a bunch of guys in uniform with heavy firepower who are quite inhospitable.
"They seemed to have put some tape up where we were standing, but otherwise it's very easy for anyone, really, to walk in there and tamper with evidence or debris," he said.
The crash site is in the Donetsk region, which is controlled by pro-Russia militants.