The leaders of Russia and the Netherlands have again discussed the crashed flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, agreeing on the need for "direct and full access of experts to the tragedy site," according to the Kremlin.
President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke by phone for the second time in three days on Tuesday morning, discussing the international investigation into the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine.
The Kremlin announced the phone conversation, saying Putin and Rutte discussed the issue of "direct and full access of experts to the tragedy site," in reference to inspectors from the United Nations' International Civil Aviation Organization.
"In this light, the need for immediate and unconditional ceasefire in the conflict zone was stressed again," the Kremlin said.
Of the 298 people on board flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, 193 were Dutch citizens. The plane went down in territory held by pro-Russian separatists. The interim government in Kyiv and the US have said they believe the separatists shot down the Boeing 777. At the headquarters of the self-proclaimed People's Republic of Donetsk on Monday, the rebels handed over the "black box" flight recorders to investigators.
Abbott laments 'cover-up'
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Tuesday told reporters that evidence was being interfered with at the crash site, in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
"After the crime comes the cover-up. What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale and obviously that has to stop," Abbott said in Canberra. Senior Green party MEP Rebecca Harms said she suspected evidence-tampering in an interview with DW.
Twenty-eight of the MH17 victims were Australian. Abbott praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, however, for Russia's support of an Australia-drafted UN Security Council resolution demanding full access to the site.
"The point I made 24 hours ago is that President Putin had said all the right things. I then went on to say the challenge is to hold him to his word," Abbott said. "And to President Putin's credit, he has thus far been as good as his word. I give him credit for being as good as his word over the last 24 hours."
Sanctions unlikely in Brussels
European Union foreign ministers are set to debate the bloc's reaction to the MH17 crash on Tuesday in Brussels, including the possibility of further sanctions against Russia. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday morning that the meeting would only lay foundations for possible future sanctions, rather than impose any.
"Russia can and should do more to ensure that those who describe themselves as separatist leaders get the strong message that … this is not an acceptable situation," Ashton said.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier gave little away ahead of the meeting: "We continue to remain open to contributing towards the de-escalation of the crisis with all diplomatic means, but it will be necessary to accompany this readiness with greater pressure."
Train departs carrying remains
A refrigerated train carrying the bodies of those killed in the crash arrived in Kyiv-controlled Kharkiv Tuesday. It left from Donetsk overnight after several delays.
The international community agreed that the Netherlands, home to the majority of the victims, would coordinate efforts to repatriate the corpses.
msh/dr (AFP, Reuters)