Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said that “evidence-tampering on an industrial scale” is taking place at the MH17 crash site, accusing pro-Russian rebels of attempting a “cover-up”.
Speaking after the success of an Australian UN resolution calling a full and secure investigation of the crash site, Mr Abbott spoke strongly against the rebels.
“After the crime comes the cover-up,” he said, adding: “What we have seen is evidence-tampering on an industrial scale, and obviously that has to stop.” He said he had seen evidence that it was not “random individuals” who were picking over the site, but that he had seen heavy machinery in footage.
He did use slightly softer rhetoric towards Putin, however, after he agreed to back the Australian resolution. “Thus far he has been as good as his word,” the Australian Prime Minister said, although he added that Putin must honour the resolution: “His words were … we must do everything we can to provide security for the international experts on the site of the tragedy. Those were his words to the Russian media … let’s now get cracking.”
According to the Guardian, Abbott also said that those responsible for shooting down MH17 must be brought to justice, although did not elaborate on how this could be achieved. Asked whether the incidence was a war crime, he responded that is was a “reckless indifference to human life”.
He said: “It is a crime, it is not an accident. We have to identify people and then we can talk about the punishment that fits the crime.”
The Australian Prime Minister’s comments come as pictures emerged on Twitter of rebel fighters handling victims’ luggage and seemingly taking possessions.
The Daily Mail reports that ane photo shows a fighter bent over the wreckage while holding what looks like a gold ring, the suggestion being that it could have been found in a victim’s belongings or even taken from a body.
The image has now been shared thousands of times on Twitter, generating outrage from people accusing the rebels of desecrating the crash site and committing acts of “appalling inhumanity”.
The BBC has also been handed footage that shows pro-Russia rebels emptying the luggage of victims of the tragedy. The militiaman who shot the film tried to justify the fighters’ actions by saying: “We looked at their belongings because we were searching for documents. Then we put them in a truck and took them away for sorting.”
The footage will, however, lead to further fears that evidence is being tampered with.
Of the 298 victims, 282 bodies are now in a refrigerated train which is now finally heading west after much delay.
The remains will be handed over to Netherlands authorities while the plane’s black boxes will be given to Malaysia.