UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday demanding international access to the site of the plane downed over eastern Ukraine and an end to military activities around the area, following intense pressure on a reluctant Russia to support the measure.
The resolution calls for a “full, thorough and independent international investigation” into the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 carrying 298 people in Hrabove. It calls for pro-Russia separatists to allow access to the site of the crash. And it demands that armed groups who control the crash site do not disturb debris, belongings or victims’ remains.
All 15 council members voted in favor of the Australia-proposed measure in a televised meeting.
The vote came after a weekend of negotiations to overcome Russian objections to the text, including a phone conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot.
Russia had pushed for the resolution to state that the International Civil Aviation Organization — rather than Ukrainian authorities — take the lead in the investigation. The final resolution fell short of that demand, but in an effort to assuage veto-wielding Russia, it included wording changes that played up the role of the ICAO, a U.N. agency.
After the vote, U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power challenged Russia to use its influence to ensure Russian-backed rebels comply with the resolution. She said a Security Council resolution would not have been necessary had Russia pushed the rebels from the start to allow unimpeded access to the site.
“Russia’s silence since Thursday sent a message to the illegal armed groups it supports: We have your backs,” Power said. “”We are not naïve: if Russia is not part of the solution, it will continue to be part of the problem.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who traveled to New York to address the council, said the resolution is an “unambiguous response from the international community to an utterly deplorable act.”
Australia’s “grief is now accompanied by outrage as we witness grotesque violations at the crash site,” Bishop said. “This demands a response. That is why Australia has brought this resolution to the Security Council. Today, the Security Council has responded.”
Australia lost 37 citizens and residents in the crash. Netherlands Prime Minister Frans Timmermans, whose country lost 193 nationals on the flight, also traveled to New York for the vote.
Before the vote, Timmermans said his “first priority today is to make sure that our people are brought home and are treated with the dignity they deserve.”
“It’s about time that actions spoke louder than words on the side of the Russians,” he said.
The United States has presented what it called “powerful” evidence that Ukraine’s rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training. Other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash.
Russian officials have blamed Ukraine’s government for creating the situation and atmosphere in which the plane was downed.