(Adds U.S. State Department expressing concern; details,
paragraphs 6-11 and 13-16)
By Anton Zverev
DONETSK, Ukraine, July 18 Gunmen prevented
monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in
Europe from observing the site where a Malaysian airliner
crashed in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on Friday, the rights and
security watchdog said.
Calling their behaviour "impolite and unprofessional", an
OSCE spokesman said some gunmen in the area seemed intoxicated
while others would not let the team of about 25 observers look
at the wreckage of the Boeing 777.
"We had expected unfettered access, that's the way we work,"
Michael Bociurkiw told a news conference.
"Unfortunately the task was made very difficult. Upon
arrival at the site ... we encountered armed personnel who acted
in a very impolite and unprofessional manner. Some of them even
looked slightly intoxicated."
He denied that the observers had been fired at by
pro-Russian rebels, but said one gunman fired shots into the
air, seemingly to scare off some civilians.
Earlier, the OSCE's permanent council chairman, Thomas
Greminger, told Reuters monitors had not been able to secure an
access corridor for the crash-site and that investigators had
stayed there for only about 75 minutes before setting off back
The United States said it was "very concerned" about the way
the OSCE monitors had been treated.
"Those who say they are going to participate in or welcome
this investigation need to give unfettered access and obviously,
we didn't see that when these individuals were there for 75
minutes," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a
regular news briefing in Washington.
The United States wanted to see "a credible, international
investigation," she said, adding that the U.S. government had
offered to send personnel and resources from the National
Transportation and Safety Board and the Federal Bureau of
Psaki said the Ukrainians had accepted the offer and the
NTSB and FBI would each send at least one investigator, although
it was unclear when they would go.
"And we of course will be responsive to their needs moving
forward," she said.
World leaders have called for a rapid investigation into the
shooting down of the airliner, which could mark a pivotal moment
in deteriorating relations between Russia and the West. The
United States and Britain said a surface-to-air missile appeared
to have been fired from rebel held territory.
There were no survivors from the Malaysia Airlines flight
MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, a Boeing 777. The United
Nations said 80 of the 298 aboard were children. It was the
deadliest attack on a commercial airliner and scattered bodies
were seen over miles of rebel-held territory near the border
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told a
meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Friday it was unlikely
the separatists could have effectively operated that missile
system without help from knowledgeable personnel.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for an
"impartial, open investigation of what happened," and warned
against any attempts to prejudge the matter.
Bociurkiw said the OSCE intended to visit the site again on
Saturday and spend the whole day there. "We unfortunately could
not get much done today because of the behaviour of the armed
individuals and the lack of access," he said.
He said the team could not find anyone to talk to about the
airliner's black box, and that it was not clear who was in
charge of the territory where the airliner crashed.
"The crash site is a very large area and there may be more
than one group who holds sway over that area," he said.
He added that while the bodies had not been touched - they
seemed to be lying where they fell, personal possessions
appeared to have been arranged in piles as if "for show".
Some of the bodies showed early signs of decomposition.
"As for observing close up the wreckage of the Boeing 777
that was very difficult. The armed guards did not allow us very
much leeway to leave the roadway and look at the wreckage," he
(Additional reporting by Georgina Prodhan in Geneva and David
Brunnstrom in Washington; writing by Elizabeth Piper, editing by
Philippa Fletcher and Bernard Orr)