MOSCOW - Malaysia's defence minister on Wednesday called for experts to carry out a final search at the crash site of downed flight MH17 in east Ukraine to recover any remains left behind before winter hits.
"It is important for us before the onset of winter in Ukraine to make one final sweep to comb the areas for any remaining passengers who have not been found," Hishammuddin Hussein said after meeting top Russian officials in Moscow.
All 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight died in the July 17 disaster. A Dutch-led probe team was forced to abandon its search efforts at the site in early August due to fighting between government forces and pro-Russian rebels but a recent ceasefire has raised hopes experts could return.
Hishammuddin though could not give any specific details of when a search would take place or if safety guarantees had been given.
The minister flew to Moscow from Kiev for a whistlestop visit a day after Dutch investigators released a preliminary report on the crash after which he was to leave for the Netherlands. He said talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu and deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin about the probe into the downing of the flight had gone "very well".
"We are both on the same page that we want transparency and we want justice," he said.
Recriminations are still being flung around over who is responsible for the downing of the flight. Only some 230 coffins of remains have been collected from the crash site and sent to the Netherlands for identification.
Kiev and the West believe the Boeing 777, which plunged out of the sky en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, was hit by a rebel surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the claims, and points the finger at Kiev.
Shoigu had earlier told his Malaysian counterpart that Ukraine bore full responsibility for the tragedy.
"The crash happened in the airspace of Ukraine which bears full, total responsibility for what has happened," Shoigu said. "I am convinced that if Ukraine solved its domestic problems without the use of armed forces, without the bloodshed there over the past months, without the use of heavy artillery... this tragedy would not have happened,"Shoigu said in televised remarks.
Dutch experts on Tuesday released initial findings from their probe into the crash, saying MH17 "broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside".
While the report from the Dutch Safety Board does not apportion blame over the July air disaster, it could heighten Western pressure on Moscow over its role in the bloody Ukraine conflict.