Security Council Calls for Immediate, Credible Investigation into Downing of Civilian Aircraft over Ukraine

18 July 2014

Security Council Calls for Immediate, Credible Investigation into Downing of Civilian Aircraft over Ukraine

18 July 2014
Security Council
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Security Council

7219th Meeting (AM)

Security Council Calls for Immediate, Credible Investigation

Into Downing of Civilian Aircraft over Ukraine


Delegate Says Incident Killing Nearly 300

‘Flagrant Violation of International Law’, ‘Outrage against Human Decency’

Speakers at the Security Council this morning expressed deep sorrow over the loss of life that resulted from the downing of a commercial airliner over eastern Ukraine yesterday, calling for a credible investigation into the tragic incident and urging accelerated political efforts to end the country’s crisis.

For that to happen, a concerted effort by national actors from across the political spectrum, backed by strong and unified support of the international community was needed, despite the fact that recent initiatives had dissipated, said Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.

"While the security, political, economic, social and human rights issues in Ukraine that should be addressed are indeed complicated, we hope that the shock of the downing of the civilian  passenger jet yesterday will prompt a serious and sustained effort to end the fighting and concentrate positively on Ukraine's future," he said.

Reiterating the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet that he said killed nearly 300 people, including United Nations staff and some 80 children, he added that, while the Organization at this point had no independent verification of the circumstances, “the Secretary-General is alarmed at what seemed to be credible, numerous reports that suggest that a sophisticated surface-to-air missile was used".

There was clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation and the United Nations was ready to cooperate, having been in touch with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which had offered Ukraine its assistance in putting together an international team.

Reporting on the intensification of fighting and loss of life in Ukraine following the 30 June announcement by Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko of the end of the 10-day ceasefire with separatist groups, he said that he would return to Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days in the interest of facilitating dialogue and ending the crisis, which was threatening peace and security beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Following Mr. Feltman’s briefing, Council members and other interested countries took the floor to express their condolences, to call for an immediate, credible investigation and to urge that efforts to find a political solution to the Ukraine crisis be accelerated.

Ukraine’s representative said that his country had been in contact with international authorities on beginning a thorough, impartial investigation of the downing of the airliner.  He maintained, however, that there was already a great deal of evidence pointing to the responsibility of the separatists, whom he referred to as terrorists.  In his statement, he called on the Russian Federation to stop fighters and arms from coming from that country into Ukraine and denied that Ukraine had fired into Russian territory.

Although most speakers called for an investigation to determine responsibility for the airliner’s crash, many also directed criticism at the separatists for the incident as well as for the continuing violence in the region.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that the facts of the airline crash must be determined through an investigation; placing blame at this time must be avoided.  He maintained, however, that an investigation should find out whether Ukraine aviation authorities were negligent in monitoring the safety of their airspace.  He also criticized Ukraine for not abiding by the Council’s calls for restraint in its actions in the east and for cross-border aggression and he called for negotiations to end the conflict.

Expressing his country’s appreciation for expressions of condolence and support, Malaysia’s representative condemned any attacks on such civilian targets as "a flagrant violation of international law and an outrage against human decency".  Those responsible must be swiftly brought to justice through an independent international investigation.

Echoing other speakers, he called the parties in the conflict to provide full cooperation and ensure evidence was not disturbed.  “Though many facts remained unknown,” he said, “the event was a grave reminder of how escalation of disputes threatened international peace and security and could claim innocent lives in a most tragic and senseless manner.”  He, therefore, urged the Council to step up its role in facilitating a peaceful resolution of the Ukraine crisis.

Also speaking today were representatives of the United Kingdom, Chad, United States, Lithuania, China, Australia, Luxembourg, France, Jordan, Argentina, Nigeria, Chile, Republic of Korea, Netherlands, Indonesia, Philippines, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand and Viet Nam.

The meeting began at 10:10 a.m. and ended at 12:15 p.m.


JEFFREY FELTMAN, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that a rapidly deteriorating crisis in the Ukraine was threatening the peace beyond its borders, noting that recent possibilities for political agreements had dissipated.  "While the United Nations at this point has no independent verification of the circumstances regarding the downing of the Malaysian Airlines passenger plane, the Secretary-General is alarmed at what seemed to be credible, numerous reports that suggest that a sophisticated surface-to-air missile was used."  The Secretary-General has strongly condemned that act.  Nearly 300 were killed, including staff of the World Health Organization (WHO) and some 80 children.  There was clearly a need for a full and transparent international investigation and the United Nations was ready to cooperate, having been in touch yesterday and today with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which had offered Ukraine its assistance in putting together an international team.

Following the 30 June announcement by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of the end of the 10-day ceasefire and subsequent resumption of the security operation in the eastern part of the country, the fighting between Government forces and armed groups has intensified dangerously, resulting in numerous deaths.  According to Ukrainian authorities, a number of towns had been returned to their control, but relentless fighting had continued particularly in and around the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk, where the armed groups appear to have consolidated.  The border areas near the Russian Federation were of particular concern, with Russian officials claiming Ukrainian shells had caused fatalities on their side, and Ukrainian authorities claiming that border guard units had come under continuous rocket and mortar attack.  There were also reports that several Ukrainian military aircrafts had been shot down, most recently on 16 July.

He reiterated the Secretary-General's demand that armed groups immediately disarm and end violent activities and again urged Ukrainian authorities to act with restraint and make every effort to protect civilians, some 500 of whom had already been killed, 1,400 injured and tens of thousands displaced, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

He said that there was an urgent need for a sustainable ceasefire as underlined by the 2 July joint Berlin Declaration.  He was disconcerted however, by the apparent lack of tangible progress towards a political solution, for which an immediate ceasefire would be a critical first step.  On behalf of the Secretary-General, he called on the international community to come together in support of Ukraine and in accordance with the principles of the Charter.  He would return to Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days in the service of good offices.  A concerted effort by national actors from across the political spectrum, backed by strong and unified support of the international community was needed.  "While the security, political, economic, social and human rights issues in Ukraine that should be addressed are indeed complicated, we hope that the shock of the downing of the civilian passenger jet yesterday will prompt a serious and sustained effort to end the fighting and concentrate positively on Ukraine's future," he said.

MARK LYALL GRANT ( United Kingdom), offering condolences to the people and Governments of the victims on the flight, said his country was mourning the loss of possibly nine of its citizens.  It was a "dark moment" for the international community with the violence in that region reaching “monstrous” proportions.  He called for a full international investigation in accordance to full international aviation guidelines, welcoming Ukraine's cooperation and support towards that end.  However, investigators must gain access to the site and work unhindered, with no evidence tampering.  Armed groups must allow that access.  Yet, despite assurances, that had not happened.  He called on the Russian Federation to ensure that access, noting that early indications had shown the flight had been brought down by a surface-to-air missile.  That had not been the first time such weaponry had been utilized in that region.  In early June, armed separatists had downed three Ukrainian flights.  The separatist leaders were Russian and were receiving weapons and support from the Russian Federation, including man-portable air defence systems, battle tanks and other armoured vehicles.

He called on the Russian Federation to "reflect carefully on what you have created", adding it should cease support to armed groups, for without it, they would wither.

MAHAMAT ZENE CHERIF ( Chad) conveying condolences to the families of those killed in the crash, said that the tragedy had impacted international peace and security, given the diverse nationality of the perpetrators.  He joined the demand for a full international investigation, and welcomed the Ukrainian authorities’ intention to broaden that investigation to include independent investigators.  He also called on all countries with influence to press for an inclusive political dialogue; he urged a ceasefire to enable the bodies’ evacuation.

SAMANTHA POWER ( United States), noting that there had been infants on board, said it was impossible to express condolences to those families.  With that, she called for a full international investigation, and emphasized that those responsible must not be sheltered by any Member State.  The flight had been cruising at 30,000 feet in a corridor used by commercial airlines and its flight path had been available online.  Only a surface-to-air missile system could have been capable of hitting that plane.  A western reporter had spotted such a weapon earlier in the region.  Furthermore, separatists had claimed responsibility and had boasted on social media about shooting down the plane.  Those posts had been deleted.  Ukrainian weapons were not in the area, nor had they been fired, despite air-space violation.  In connection with her call for an international investigation, she noted that United States President Barack Obama had offered to Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin experts and other assistance if needed.

Most Council members and the international community had been warning for months that the Russian Federation must stop what it had started to prevent such devastation.  But, recent activities demonstrated otherwise, including the discovery of Russian weapons and documentation by Ukrainian authorities, the recruiting efforts by separatist groups for those experienced in operating heavy artillery, and deployment of new forces near the Ukrainian border.  Expressing her delegation’s commitment to a diplomatic solution, she noted the people killed on that flight had come from nine different nations, "but could have easily come from any of our countries”.  The world community was duty-bound to find out what happened and ensure accountability, she said.

DAINIUS BAUBLYS ( Lithuania) said the circumstances of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight must be established through an independent international investigation.  The perpetrators must not escape responsibility and investigators must immediately be granted access to the crash site.  The circumstances around the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight were impossible to ignore and all pointed in one direction — a horrible crime committed as part of the armed aggression against Ukraine.  The international community could not stand by in the face of such aggression, as the conflict had become a threat to international peace and security.  Lithuania called on Russia to collaborate with Ukraine to ensure the security of their border and prevent weapons and armed terrorists from entering Ukrainian territory.  He called on Russia to constructively cooperate in the implementation of the peace plan put forward by Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within the internationally recognized border, including Crimea, was non-negotiable and must be respected by all.

LIU JIEYI ( China) expressed shock and grief at the downing of the airplane in eastern Ukraine, extending condolences to the families.  The priorities now should be to establish facts and not to trade accusations.  He supported a credible investigation with the cooperation of all parties.  In addition, he expressed deep concern over the situation in Ukraine, calling for calm and restraint to prevent further intensification of conflict.  A political settlement was the only way out.  Noting constructive efforts to achieve a ceasefire through dialogue, he hoped that those would come to fruition, taking account of all the rights of all the people involved.  China respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all countries, including Ukraine; he pledged his country would play a constructive role in promoting a political settlement.

PHILIPPA KING ( Australia) pointed to mounting evidence that a missile had downed a Malaysian Airlines plane in Ukraine, and that Russian-backed rebels were responsible.  Welcoming the separatists’ decision to allow access to the crash site, she urged the Russian Federation’s full cooperation with investigations.  Despite a Council press statement calling for an investigation, she urged adoption of a resolution that would reinforce the need to grant access to the crash site and for a full, thorough, independent and international investigation.  In 19 Council meetings on Ukraine, “the overwhelming majority” of members had called for an end to violence and destabilization, together with de-escalation of tensions, the laying down by separatists of their weapons and genuine dialogue.  It was “time for the equivocation and dissembling and false narratives of some to stop”, she said.  Russia needed to end provocations and any support for separatists, and to prevent weapons, equipment and fighters flowing across the border.  Pointing to the promise of the four party talks, she hoped to see results from their agreements.

SYLVIE LUCAS ( Luxembourg) said that the international community owed it to the victims to find out all the facts about the tragic downing of a civilian airliner.  All concerned parties must cooperate with an investigation, she said, adding that the violence was part of an ongoing deterioration of the situation in the Ukraine.  Separatists continued to threaten the stability and independence of the country, while active armed groups were well-equipped military forces surely benefiting from outside support.  She called on the Russian Federation to keep arms and fighters from crossing the border.  Ukraine had played its part in holding dialogue and guaranteeing the rights of minorities.  Unfortunately, the armed groups had not accepted that outstretched hand.  A genuine and lasting ceasefire was needed, and she welcomed efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and others towards that end.  Yesterday's disaster emphasized that it was high time to end this crisis.

GÉRARD ARAUD ( France) called for an international investigation.  A glimmer of hope had been seen with the election of Ukrainian President Poroshenko.  He also noted the recent "daily exchanges" between President Putin, President Poroshenko, French President François Hollande and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel towards a lasting ceasefire.  However, the situation continued to deteriorate with combat stepped up because the separatists refused to accept the hand extended to them.  The shooting down of the aircraft could have only happened with the use of sophisticated weapon systems.  Those responsible for arming that group bore responsibility.  He called for a sincere commitment from the Russian Federation, which had not been seen.  An end to the escalation of violence and the attaining of a lasting ceasefire must happen and that country must take a constructive role in that.  Weapons crossing the Russian-Ukrainian border must cease, along with the rapid deployment along the borders.

ZEID RA'AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan) called for an independent and comprehensive investigation with participation of the relevant Ukrainian authorities, as well as others, including Malaysian authorities.  The situation was taking a new and dangerous trend after yesterday, causing great concern for his Government.  He reaffirmed his call for all influential parties to exert pressure on the insurgents to disarm and withdraw from facilities and buildings which they occupied.  There needed to be a peaceful solution and those people displaced from their homes must be allowed to return.  All parties to the Geneva Statement and the Berlin Joint Declaration should abide by those provisions.

MARÍA CRISTINA PERCEVAL ( Argentina) expressed deepest condolences to the countries, friends and families of the passengers aboard the Malaysian jet.  She called for an international, impartial investigation that would determine the facts behind the tragic event as quickly as possible.  Armed groups must end their violent acts and there was a need to respect Ukrainian sovereignty.  At this difficult and sad moment, Argentina called for prudence, without entering into the blame game.  The truth needed to be found, she added, concluding, "may the victims rest in peace".

U. JOY OGWU ( Nigeria) said that yesterday's tragic event seemed to her like the apocalypse described in the Book of Revelation.  Such incidents would increase if countries did not end support to violent activity around the world.  She expressed full support for an independent investigation as called for by the Secretary-General and for the cooperation of all parties in that effort.  There needed to be an end of hostilities in eastern Ukraine and that had to come through dialogue as provided for by the Berlin Joint Declaration and other statements.

VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said that the facts must be determined over the tragic downing of the airliner and speculation at this point was counterproductive.  An international commission under ICAO would be appropriate.  Among the questions that should be asked is how commercial airliners were routed over an area of conflict.  In such a situation, States were responsible for monitoring the safety of their airspace and an investigation should find out whether Ukraine aviation authorities had properly performed their duties in that regard.  The Council had called for restraint, and the destruction in eastern Ukraine did not show any evidence of that.  There had been no evacuations of areas with clashes and evidence that people fleeing the violence had been reportedly targeted, while the Russian Federation was sheltering tens of thousands.  There were aggressive acts from Ukraine against Russian citizens, as well.  He called on authorities to stem such incidents in the future.

He reiterated his call for inclusive dialogue, but said that this appeared unlikely because of the support for Ukraine's use of force by his Western colleagues, particularly the United States.  Because of that, previous agreements had become irrelevant.  The Kyiv Government had decided to stamp out dissenters, with some calling them the chilling name "insects".  Promised reforms of the Ukrainian Constitution were being done in secret; other reforms were not being acted on after they engaged European support.  International institutions had not acted on ending the violence because of his Western colleagues, who had met his country's initiatives with cynicism.  The operation in eastern Ukraine needed to end as soon as possible.  "Negotiations were still possible, but the right choices need to be made," he said.

OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile), calling for an international investigation, said no cause could justify an act of such cruelty.  All facilities must be provided to ensure security and access for the investigators to the site.  It was essential that those responsible be brought to justice, and he called on all States to cooperate actively with the authorities.  The downing of that plane in an area of high political tension emphasized the danger of the escalation of violence.

OH JOON (Republic of Korea) expressed shock and outrage at the downing of the plane.  His country, he said, was also a victim of a downing by armed groups of one of its planes, and stressed that if yesterday's crash had been a deliberate attack, the international community must do everything within its power to bring those responsible to account.  "No one should get away with killing so many innocent people who had nothing to do with the conflict," he said.

EUGÈNE-RICHARD GASANA ( Rwanda), Security Council president, speaking in his national capacity, said that the tragedy had been the result of the Council's inability to take action.  However, with the shooting down of the Malaysian aircraft, the Ukrainian crisis was no longer between the Ukrainian authorities and armed groups —— it had “crossed the red line by endangering all of our lives as it did for the men, women and children from different countries on that flight".  He called for an independent investigation in line with international aviation guidelines, and urged that responsibility be determined so that the perpetrators could be held accountable.  Furthermore, the frequent use of surface-to-air missiles posed the question of access to those weapons.  The Security Council and the larger international community could no longer afford to turn a blind eye on the matter.  It was unfortunate that the tragedy had come at a time when regional and international efforts were under way to find a diplomatic and political solution.  With that, he voiced support for the Berlin Joint Declaration.  He renewed his call for armed groups to respect the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, concluding that the shooting down of the plane was a stark reminder to Council members to put aside their differences.

YURIY A. SERGEYEV ( Ukraine) expressed sorrow to all delegations of countries that had lost citizens in the airline downing.  He affirmed that International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) had been contacted and that his country would cooperate with an impartial thorough investigation.  There was much information that was already clear, however.  The plane was shot down over what he called terrorist-controlled territory, where a Ukrainian aircraft had previously been downed.  There were recordings of terrorists discussing the event, in which they seemed to acknowledge responsibility.  There was evidence that terrorists had two BUK anti-aircraft systems, which captured cadres had said had come from the Russian Federation.  He maintained that, in fact, numerous supplies of weaponry had proven to have come from the Russian Federation, with some of the evidence specifying Russian military units had provided those arms.

He added that recruiting efforts, in favour of the illegal armed groups, were spreading throughout the Russian Federation, seeking those who could operate sophisticated weaponry.  It was significant that the country had never called on its citizens not to join the armed groups, nor had it prosecuted anyone for joining them.  In fact, he said, several times a day, columns tried to breach the border.  In addition, the armed groups themselves had fired towards the Russian border to create a provocation.  He maintained that Ukrainian national forces had never fired at Russian territory.  In addition, massing of Russian troops on the Ukrainian border had continued, violating not only the United Nations Charter, but also previous agreements of the parties.  He demanded that the Russians immediately cease provocations, stop threatening the peace and security of his country and allow his President's peace plan to be implemented.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), expressing profound sorrow to families and friends of those on board the airline, said his country was deeply touched by the expressions of condolences and pledges of support and assistance from around the world.  Describing the nationalities of the victims and the circumstances of the flight, he condemned such attacks on civilians in the strongest possible terms as "a flagrant violation of international law and an outrage against human decency".  The perpetrators must be swiftly brought to justice, he urged, demanding in that regard "a full, independent and transparent international investigation into the incident involving the relevant international authorities, including the ICAO".  He reported that Malaysia had been formally invited by the Ukrainian authorities to take part in the investigation and would be sending two representatives as soon as possible.

He urged the parties to the conflict in the area of the crash site to provide their fullest cooperation, including unhindered access to humanitarian and investigatory personnel, for whom he urged the Security Council to ensure security.  There must be no interference at the crash site or removal of debris from the area, including the flight data recorder or “black box”.  Alhough many facts were still unknown, the event was a grave reminder of how escalation of disputes threatened international peace and security and could claim innocent lives in a most tragic and senseless manner.  With that, he urged the Council to step up its role in facilitating a peaceful resolution of the Ukrainian crisis.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM ( Netherlands), noting that at least 189 victims had been Dutch nationals, said his country was united and determined to "seek the truth about what happened".  He called on all parties who had any influence to grant unfettered access to the crash site to emergency responders and investigators alike.  He also called on the Security Council, "the world's highest authority", to mandate a full, thorough and impartial international investigation and ensure that all relevant evidence, including the black box be made available to the international investigation.

He went on to say that, if the tragedy was the result of the use of weapons, his Government would demand that those responsible, both directly and indirectly, be held accountable and be brought to justice.  That was not only a moral obligation, but a duty in the face of international law and justice.  He asked that the United Nations help his country bring home the victims' remains as soon as possible.  Not only did the Netherlands deserve to know what happened, but the world had a right to know.

DESRA PERCAYA ( Indonesia) said that if a surface-to-air missile was responsible for the tragedy it was a grave violation to international and humanitarian law.  The international community should ensure a full international and independent investigation.  His country stood ready to support such an investigation.  Further, if the shooting down of that plane had been intentionally caused by human factors, he demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice to the fullest extent.  His Government had instructed all Indonesian airlines to

exercise caution and avoid flying over that region of Ukraine’s air space.  As a member of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) family, he expressed solidarity with Malaysia, as well as all the countries of the victims.

LIBRAN CABACTULAN ( Philippines), stating that the flight had on broad 298 irreplaceable lives, said that the world today was united in grief.  The incident was “revolting”, particularly in light of reports that the crash had occurred due to a targeted move.  He joined other delegations for an immediate securing of the crash site so that a full, independent, transparent and international investigation would be ensured.  Full and safe access to investigators, as well, needed to be ensured so that they could swiftly conclude and report their results.

BÉNÉDICTE FRANKINET ( Belgium) said that five of her country’s nationals had been on that flight.  Echoing other delegations, she called for a full impartial, international investigation and full access to the site for investigators and search and rescue teams.  Voicing support for the proposal by Australia for a resolution towards that end, she said “we owe this to the victims and their families, but also to ourselves”.

GUILLERMO RISHCYNSHI ( Canada) said that, as more information became available, his delegation was increasingly convinced that the downing of the flight was not only a tragedy, but very likely the result of an “outrageous crime” perpetrated against hundreds of innocent civilians from many countries.  Calling upon all parties to the conflict to cooperate fully with an international investigation, he pointed out that the conflict in the region in which the plane went down was a conflict generated by and perpetuated by “ Russia’s provocative military actions” against Ukraine.  The Russian Federation must cease its political, financial and material support to armed insurgents in the region.

JIM MCLAY ( New Zealand), expressing solidarity with Malaysia and all concerned countries, called for the protection of the integrity of the crash site and for a full investigation.  The countries of those who had lost their citizens in the plane crash had a right for an investigation and any party that had any information on the incident must offer assistance.  “No ifs, no buts, no maybes,” he declared.  The conflict was now an international issue, resulting in people from other parts of the world who had no direct connection to the conflicts being killed.

HOAI TRUNG ( Viet Nam) expressed sympathy for all the lives lost in the downing of the airline, three of whom had been Vietnamese.  He called for expeditious action to assist the families of the victims and a credible investigation of the incident.  He expressed concern over the crisis in the Ukraine and hoped for restraint from the parties, as well as for the promulgation of dialogue towards a peaceful resolution.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.