(Recasts, adds details throughout)
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, July 18 Russia warned on Friday
against any attempts to prejudge an investigation into what
brought down a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine with 298
people on board, raising questions about the role of Ukrainian
At a somber emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council
that began with ambassadors standing for a moment of silence,
Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called for an "impartial,
open investigation of what happened" on Thursday.
Of the 298 people on the Malaysia Airlines flight
to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, the United Nations said 80 were
children. Ambassadors from most of the 11 countries who lost
citizens in the incident told the council of their states' shock
Churkin asked: "Why did the Ukrainian aviation dispatchers
send a passenger flight to an area of military clashes? An area
which was being used for carrying out strikes against civilian
targets ... and where there were anti-aircraft systems working?"
"International law plans for the possibility of a timely
closure by the state of areas that are dangerous for flights. It
would seem that there would need to be an investigation not only
of the disaster but also the extent to which the Ukrainian
aviation authorities carried out their obligations," he said.
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fueling a
pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former
Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies
orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine's attempts to end it
by military force are making the situation worse.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told
the Security Council meeting that the Malaysian airliner was
"likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated
from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine."
Power said it was unlikely the separatists could have
effectively operated that missile system without help from
"Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian
personnel in operating the systems," she said. "The Ukrainians
do have SA-11 systems ... However, we are not aware of any
Ukrainian SAM systems in the area of the shoot-down."
Churkin warned against attempts to pressure an investigation
by "trying to prejudge its outcome with broad statements and
insinuations that are unjustified in such a difficult
situation." He said an international commission should be
created by the U.N. International Civil Aviation Organization.
But Ukraine U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev told the council:
"This tragedy would not have been possible if Russia did not
support the terrorists and did not provide sophisticated
anti-aircraft missile systems ... to terrorists."
The 15-member Security Council issued a statement just
before the meeting calling for a "full, thorough and independent
international investigation" and appropriate accountability.
Britain drafted the short text and hoped the council could issue
it on Thursday but Russia requested more time to review it.
U.N. political affairs chief Jeffrey Feltman told the
Security Council he would travel to Moscow and Kiev in the
coming days. He also said ICAO made an offer to Ukraine to put
together an international team of investigators.
"This horrifying incident must at the very least prompt a
serious and sustained effort to end the fighting in Ukraine,"
said a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
(Additional reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Chizu
Nomiyama and James Dalgleish)