Najib: Safe access to Kiev needed

Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Tun Razak.

SEPANG - Putrajaya has told Moscow that Malaysia's team of investigators must be given immediate access to the crash site of MH17 along with international counterparts.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said he had also informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that he wants the safety of the team to be guaranteed and a safe corridor set up for the team.

"I also told him how important it is that the crash site not be disturbed and that any possible evidence is not touched," he told reporters after a telephone conversation with Putin.

Putin, who had requested to speak with Najib, said he would use his influence to try and meet Malaysia's requests.

The Prime Minister said Putin felt that the rebels at the Russia-Ukraine border did not have the capability to shoot down the Malaysia Airlines' aircraft. However, he noted that the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko felt otherwise.

"We have become victims of an intense geo-political clash in the area," said Najib, adding that Malaysia's focus was to find "hard and irrefutable evidence" before concluding what actually happened to the plane and who was responsible for downing it.

The Prime Minister said both parties in the conflict area must agree to a temporary ceasefire in order to allow the investigation team to enter the area. Since the incident, Najib had received calls from world leaders including United States president Barack Obama, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Indonesia and the secretary-general of the United Nations.

On mounting anger expressed by several government leaders against Russia over the incident, Najib said Malaysia was not interested in the geo-political game or complexity in the area and was only interested in establishing the facts.

Addressing the country live over television later, Najib said an emergency Parliamentary sitting would be convened to state Malaysia's strong stand on the incident and to condemn the inhumane act.

He urged Malaysians irrespective of their religious or political background to hold prayers for the victims as well as the well-being of the country. He also announced that the Malaysian and all other flags would be flown at half mast from now until Monday.

In an earlier press conference, Najib said the flight route over Ukraine taken by MH17 was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organisation and the International Air Travel Association.

He said the air space that the Malaysia Airlines flight was traversing was not subject to restrictions.

In a separate press conference, Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai condemned the downing of the airliner.

"We call for those responsible to be swiftly brought to justice. It is an outrage if the airliner was targeted and subsequently shot down," he said before adding that the Ukrainian National Bureau of Air Accidents and Incidents Investigation With Civil Aircraft would take the lead in the investigation of the tragedy under Annex 13 of the ICAO guidelines.

"Malaysia offers its full and unqualified support to the investigation. Malaysia has also been formally invited to participate and will send two senior accredited representatives to assist," said Liow, who is also MCA president.

On the passenger list, he said the manifest would be released once Malaysia Airlines is able to contact all the next of kin.

"MAS will also release the cargo manifest soon," he said.

MH17 was carrying 298 passengers and crew, and none is believed to have survived.