UPDATE 1-Malaysia minister heads for Ukraine to ensure access to downed plane

Sat Jul 19, 2014 1:26am EDT

(Adds comment from defence minister)

KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 (Reuters) - Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai will fly to the Ukraine capital of Kiev on Saturday to ensure an investigating team gets safe access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The United States believes the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.

"We will want to ensure a safe corridor to the site," Liow told reporters. "... we sent a team to Kiev yesterday night. I will be leaving for Kiev tonight to ensure we have access to the site."

Defence Minister and former Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the public face of the government during the crisis over the missing MH370 airliner in March, said the main priority was to ensure security and that any debris was not tampered with.

"We want to get to the bottom of this," he added, saying international cooperation was needed and that Malaysia had been in touch with officials in Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Britain and China.

"We do not have a position until the facts have been verified, whether the plane was really brought down, how it was brought down, who brought it down." (Reporting by Anuradha Raghu; Writing by Nick Macfie; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)

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