MH17: Full coverage of Malaysia Airlines tragedy, photos

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australia will continue to do everything it can to bring the MH17 attackers to justice after the UN backed an Australian resolution demanding full access for investigators.

The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted the Australian-authored resolution demanding unrestricted access for international authorities to the crash site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

It also calls on the Russian-backed rebels to ensure the bodies of the 298 victims - including up to 39 Australians - are treated with the utmost dignity and respect and returned to their grieving families as soon as possible.

And it calls on all countries to co-operate in bringing the perpetrators of the crime to justice.

‘‘Today’s resolution lends the full weight of the Security Council in condemning the attack and extending the international community’s deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of all the victims of this tragic incident,’’ Mr Abbott said in a statement.

‘‘Australia will continue to do everything in its power to ensure this barbaric act is thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.’’

AAP

An Australian man mourning the loss of his parents in the Malaysia Airlines disaster has a message for warring forces in Ukraine.

Make peace and let something good flow from the grief of too many families around the world.

Paul Guard says he’s looking for a silver lining, something that will help him make some sense of the loss of his mum and dad, Queensland couple Roger and Jill Guard.

‘‘We’re less concerned about the time it will take to bring them home. We hope there’s a positive to come from this - that those people fighting on the ground will stop, put down their weapons, come around a table and talk,’’ Mr Guard has told Fairfax media.

‘‘We would prefer to see an end to these monstrous activities We would be consoled somewhat if something positive came from this, like a ceasefire, like talks around a table.’’

Jill and Roger Guard, who were both doctors, died on their way home from a holiday that included visiting relatives in Britain and a cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam, where they boarded the fateful flight.

The war zone where Malaysia Airlines flight 17 went down continues to stymie investigators, leading to Prime Minister Tony Abbott warning that it may be weeks before the remains of Australian victims are returned.

Bodies remain strewn about the wreckage more than a day after the jet was felled in rebel-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.

Reaching the sprawling crash site remains difficult, with rebel checkpoints dotting the only road from Donetsk, the nearest major city.

A team of about 30 monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe say rebel gunmen, some of whom appeared intoxicated, restricted their access to wreckage on Friday.

The monitors were unable to secure an access corridor to the crash site, and stayed for only 75 minutes, citing intimidation from rebels.

World leaders have demanded rebels allow independent investigators immediate, unfettered access to determine who shot down the plane.

‘‘Armed rebels are trampling the site,’’ Mr Abbott said on Saturday.

‘‘It is absolutely vital than an independent international investigation begin as soon as possible so that we can identify and recover the remains of all the Australians on board.’’

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop will travel to New York on Saturday night to lead Australia’s campaign for a binding UN resolution to establish an independent investigation with full access to the crash site.

The US government believes the jet carrying 298 passengers, including 28 Australians, was shot down by a Russian-made surface-to-air missile launched from rebel-held territory.

‘‘We cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel,’’ a US representative told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Russia has denied involvement, instead pointing to the possible participation of the Ukraine military, which Kiev has denied.Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council and has the power to veto binding resolutions.

Professor Ben Saul, an international law expert at the University of Sydney, told AAP it was difficult to predict Russia’s reaction at the Security Council.

But he said the UN had acted in similar situations in the past; for example, when it compelled Libya to give up suspects in the 1988 Lockerbie plane bombing.

AAP

Melbourne-based IT security consultant Marco Grippeling has been confirmed as one of 10 Victorian residents killed in the MH17 flight disaster.

Mr Grippeling, 48, a Dutch national who was working in Victoria, was aboard the Malaysia Airlines flight when it was downed in disputed territory in eastern Ukraine, relatives confirmed on Saturday.

Among those killed in the crash were small business owners Gerry and Mary Menke, Sunbury real estate agent Albert Rizk and his wife Maree, and Melbourne-based couple Elaine Teoh and Emiel Mahler.

Also on board were award-winning novelist Liam Davison, 56, and his wife, Toorak College teacher Francesca ‘‘Frankie’’ Davison.

A relative of Mr Grippeling told AAP that he had been killed in the crash.

‘‘Marco’s wife, family and friends both in Australia and Holland are completely devastated by their loss,’’ the family spokesman said.

Malaysian Elaine Teoh and Dutch national Emiel Mahler, both 27, lived in Melbourne and were thought to be travelling to a wedding.

Ms Teoh’s employer, IG Australia, issued a statement saying she and Mr Mahler - who used to work at the company - were ‘‘beloved members of our close IG community and were valued members of our team’’.

Mr Mahler left IG Australia to join Vanguard Australia, which said staff were ‘‘extremely sad’’.Gerry and Mary Menke, who ran an abalone pearl company in Mallacoota, made a huge contribution to the local community, Jeanette Seignior from Business and Tourism East Gippsland said.

‘‘They are a beautiful couple, a lovely family,’’ Ms Seignior told AAP

.The Rizks, who had two children, had lived in Sunbury for more than 20 years, where Mr Rizk was a director of the local Raine & Horne real estate branch.

Hume city councillor Jack Ogilvie said the couple were actively involved in the Sunbury Football Club.

‘‘Albert and Maree both loved the club ... Maree worked in the canteen on game day,’’ Mr Ogilvie said.

‘‘Albert has been on our committee for three years. His son James is one of our A-grade footballers.’’

Liam Davison would be remembered as a brilliant author, but also a teacher who was ‘‘universally liked’’, according to fellow writer Ben Pobjie.

‘‘He was a really great writer in his own right and it was a privilege to be in his classes,’’ Mr Pobjie, who was taught by Mr Davison, told Fairfax Media.

Frankie Davison, 54, had worked at Toorak College on the Mornington Peninsula for 28 years.

‘‘We are devastated by the news of this tragedy,’’ college principal Helen Carmody said.‘‘Frankie was a dear friend - warm, generous and kind. She gave so much to Toorak College both personally and professionally.’’

The Davisons left behind a son and daughter, Ms Carmody said.Victorian Premier Denis Napthine has pledged his government’s support for loved ones.

He said the dead also included a ‘‘substantial’’ number of delegates and experts travelling to Melbourne for the 20th International AIDS Conference, to begin this weekend.

Flags on government buildings across Victoria will fly at half-mast until the conference ends.

The Department of Human Services has arranged for counsellors to tend to friends and loved ones of the victims including those at Melbourne Airport, the Malaysia Airlines Melbourne office and the AIDS conference.

AAP

By Lucy Cormack, Deborah Gough

REPORTS of looting are now emerging from the crash site of MH17 as bodies remain strewn across the area more than 24 hours after the disaster.

Adviser to the Ukrainian Minister of Internal Affairs, Anton Gerashchenko has reported that "terrorists" have begun collecting valuables belonging to the victims of the tragedy.

"Death-hunters collecting Were not Only Cash money and Jewelry of the crashed Boing passengers died but Also the credit cards of the Victims [sic]," he wrote on his Facebook page.

The reports come alongside those of a chaotic investigation being conducted among the wheat fields at the crash site.

Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s special monitoring mission for Ukraine, told ABC News Radio that bodies at the crash site were already “starting to decompose in the fields”. 

''It is astonishing to go there and this scene with no recovery going on,'' Mr Bociukiw said.

He said there there appeared to be no tampering with bodies at the site except markers were being placed near to them or to body parts. He said debris seemed to still be in place. He said the crash site could be up to six kilometres wide.

''It is a very, very gruesome scene and it boggles the mind that this could go on, we are going into day two or three now,'' Mr Bociukiw said. 

He said it was disturbing to find no credible leader in the separatist-held area to establish the facts at the site.

Questions remained about how many bodies were there and the location of the black box. Mr Bociukiw's delegation needed to find out whether it was safe enough for international experts to begin their investigation into the disaster.

He said many of the separatists appeared ''very aggressive'', under the influence of alcohol and possibly drugs.

''It is kind of the world's biggest crime scene right now,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.

He said his team had been in touch with Malaysian senior officials whose prime concern was that the bodies were treated in a human way.

''One immediate requirement would be refrigerated trailers - anything where these bodies could be moved - so they don't continue to lie there, exposed to the elements,'' Mr Bociurkiw said.

He said, 25 workers from the OSCE had access to the crash site for just 75 minutes before they were forced to leave. He said a gun shot was fired into the air as they left. 

OSCE council chairman, Thomas Greminger told Reuters that workers assessing the scene "did not have the kind of access that they expected. They did not have the freedom of movement that they need to do their job. The crash site is not sealed off". 

Denjen Doroschenko, an Australian journalist working in Ukraine told Fairfax Media in a radio interview that separatist organisations on the ground were "clueless about how to control a disaster area at all".

Dr Geoff Dell, an air crash investigation expert from Central Queensland University, said in any crash investigation it is critical that all on site know what they are doing.

"The longer it stays unexamined the more likely it gets contaminated, especially when there is people that aren’t really familiar with accident scenes, stomping all over it," he said.

"The longer that goes on the more likely something you’re looking for is either destroyed, or stolen."

He referred to Lauda Air Flight 004 which crashed in Thailand in 1991, in which a critical component was never found due to looting.

"Overnight a large percentage of the wreckage was pilfered. Pieces of the airplane that you couldn’t for the life of you think someone would want to steal, were taken," he said. 

Dr Dell said it was crucial that proper protocols were followed, such as protecting the perimeter to keep people out and setting up a grid.

"You draw up a grid so you can set up the relationship with the wreckage and identify exactly where each critical piece of evidence came from," he said. 

Armed guards are reportedly guarding the crash site near Torez, in a remote eastern area of Ukraine, where it is said the typical investigation grid is absent.

Dr Dell said bodies that are still at the scene pose a different risk, as the risk of infection and disease to investigators on the crash scene increases.

"It's inevitable some contamination will take place during the rescue of removal of the bodies," he said.

"In other parts of the world there is less awareness of that, and I wouldn't be surprised given what we’ve seen, if the crash site hasn't already been substantially altered by the actions of the people in the first response."

Frankie and Liam Davison were aboard MH71.

Frankie and Liam Davison were aboard MH71.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has confirmed that at least three passengers on downed Malaysian Airlines flight 17 were NSW residents.

One, Sister Philomene Tiernan, was a nun who taught at Kincoppal school in the Sydney suburb of Rose Bay.

The other two, initially believed to have been Queensland residents, are thought to be Wollongong couple Michael and Carol Clancy.

Overnight, Queensland revised the number of victims from the state down to seven, from nine.

Emma Bell, aged in her 20s, a young homelands teacher working in the remote community of Maningrida in the Northern Territory, was also identified by local media as one of the victims.

DFAT says 28 Australians were on board flight MH17, but has not released any more names.

The department’s latest information says the flight was carrying 10 Victorian residents, seven each from Queensland and Western Australia, and one from the ACT in addition to the three from NSW.

The 23 victims identified so far based on government advice and media reports are:

- Albert and Maree Rizk;

- Elaine Teoh and Emiel Mahler

- Francesca ‘‘Frankie’’ and Liam Davison

- Gerry and Mary Menke

- doctors Roger and Jill Guard

- Helena Sidelik

- Howard and Susan Horder

- Nick Norris and his three grandchildren, Mo (12), Evie (10) and Otis Maslin

- Arjen and Yvonne Ryder

-  Sister Philomene Tiernan

- Michael and Carol Clancy

- Liliane Derden.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten.

Australia should consider uninviting Russian President Vladimir Putin from the Brisbane G20 meeting over his government’s ‘‘reckless and stupid’’ actions leading up to the MH17 disaster, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says.

Mr Shorten said he was fully supportive of the Australian government’s strong stance over the apparent downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

‘‘For an outside nation to have supplied these Ukrainian rebels with this weaponry of war and murder is a very, very reckless and stupid act,’’ he told reporters in Melbourne on Saturday.

‘‘It is in the interests of resolving what has happened that all of the great powers, including the Russian Federation, support what was said at the United Nations Security Council last night.’’

The council called for a thorough investigation of the crash.Mr Shorten said the Australian government should consider barring Mr Putin from the upcoming G20 meeting in Brisbane if the country did not support the investigation.

‘‘If the Russian Federation will not co-operate to help resolve and get to the heart of what has happened here, I don’t think Australians would welcome them coming to the G20,’’ he said.

AAP

Sister Philomene Tiernan was on a spiritual high when she and 27 other Australians were killed in the MH17 attack, which claimed the lives of 298 passengers and crew.

The elderly nun was making her way home to Sydney after a sabbatical in France when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down by a suspected surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine.

‘‘Let me not be glib and suggest there’s any simple words for this.’’

Monsignor Tony Doherty

Before boarding the doomed flight in Amsterdam she wrote to her good friend and boss, Kincoppal-Rose Bay principal Hilary Johnston-Croke.

‘‘She had been on retreat at... the spirituality centre for the Society of the Sacred Heart and then she’d gone to Paris,’’ the devastated principal said.

‘‘She’d gone to the shrine of... the foundress of the order so she was on a spiritual high.

‘‘She was really looking forward to coming back. She’d had a great sabbatical. She was in a good space.’’

About 200 members of the Kincoppal-Rose Bay school community, including students and their parents, alumni and nuns, gathered on a cold Saturday morning at the Saint Mary Magdalene church in Rose Bay for a special memorial mass.

‘‘I can’t tell you how much she’ll be missed,’’ Ms Johnston-Croke said outside the church.‘‘She’s just so loved by our community.’’

Parish priest Monsignor Tony Doherty led the service and afterwards told reporters it was difficult to describe the death of someone like Sister Philomene.

‘‘Phil was a beautiful spirit in the midst. It will be like losing one of the closest members of your own family.’’

‘‘Let me not be glib and suggest there’s any simple words for this.’’

Sister Philomene Tiernan

Sister Philomene Tiernan

Other nuns had been hit hard by Sister Philomene’s death and it’s hard to reconcile the tragedy of what happened to those on MH17 with religious belief, Monsignor Doherty said.

‘‘That sense of evil crushing grace is the very environment in which we try to sort out what faith means,’’ he said.

‘‘They’ll cope. They’re strong women but at the moment the tragedy is overwhelming.’

’Sister Philomene worked for more than 30 years as teacher and director of boarding at the exclusive Catholic school.

But she was more than just a teacher, Ms Johnston-Croke said.

‘‘She was a leading light and will be an incredible loss to the Society of the Sacred Heart, and a huge loss to our school community.’’

The Society of the Sacred Heart has schools in 44 countries and all have written to or called Ms Johnston-Croke with their tributes and condolences.

‘‘I’ve been getting email and texts from all over the world,’’ she said.

As the news broke on Friday, students expressed their shock and grief.‘‘

The impact of this is just unbelievable in the whole community,’’ a year 12 boarding student, who did not want to be named, said.

‘‘I feel like since we are all away from our parents she seemed like a grandma that everyone just loved,’’ a year 10 student said.

The school has educated many famous women, including Gai Waterhouse, Ita Buttrose, Lucy Turnbull, Princess Michael of Kent and television presenter Samantha Armytage.

‘‘As a former KRBSchool/Sacred Heart girl,very sad to hear about the death of Sr Philomena Tiernan in today’s plane crash. May she #RIPMH17,’’ Armytage tweeted.

‘‘Many women incl my wife Lucy & daughter Daisy were inspired by the love of Sr Phil Tiernan RSCJ. God bless her & all who died in MH17,’’ Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull tweeted.

AAP

Organisers of an international AIDS conference in Melbourne are closer to knowing how many of its delegates have been tragically lost to the downing of flight MH17.

There are unofficial reports up to 100 public health officials, HIV researchers and advocates were onboard the flight enroute to Australia for the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014)

Past president of the International AIDS Society (IAS) Joep Lange has been confirmed as being on the flight, though exactly how many of the 12,000 conference delegates were onboard is unclear.

Organisers are expected to make a clarifying statement later on Saturday.

The five-day conference begins on Sunday, and the IAS says the event will go ahead.

‘‘The IAS, convenor of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), is continuing to work with the authorities to clarify how the tragic loss of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 impacts our conference delegates, our conference partners and our community as a whole,’’ the organisers say.

‘‘In recognition of our colleagues’ dedication to the fight against HIV/AIDS, the conference will go ahead as planned and will include opportunities to reflect and remember those we have lost.’’

The Australian government and Labor opposition on Saturday issued a joint statement to pay tribute to the scores of health experts feared lost.

‘‘We face the grim reality that some of the world’s most talented and passionate AIDS researchers and advocates have died,’’ Health Minister Peter Dutton said.

‘‘There is a degree of shock and a sense of overwhelming loss that people who, in many instances, have devoted their lives to the noble cause of eradicating AIDS from the planet could have been lost in such senseless and tragic circumstances.’’

Mr Dutton also paid special tribute to Liliane Derden, 50, a public servant at the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) who was reportedly onboard the flight, and said the ‘‘people of Australia share in the heartbreak of all the families involved’’.

Opposition health spokeswoman Catherine King said those who had ‘‘worked tirelessly towards the vision of an AIDS-free world’’ had been lost.

Giant letters spelling out ‘‘AIDS 2014’’ have been erected on Melbourne’s Princes Bridge to mark the the conference, and the site has become an informal memorial where flowers have been left by the public.

AAP

ANGER has deepened around the world as Russia-backed separatists have been blamed for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines jet over disputed Ukrainian territory, killing hundreds and potentially sparking a grave East-West crisis.

The Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 came down in a cornfield in strife-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday local time, leaving a horrific trail of carnage on the ground, killing all 298 people on board, including 28 Australians and 154 Dutch.

Comments attributed to a pro-Russia rebel chief suggested his men downed flight MH17 by mistake, believing it was a Ukrainian army transport plane.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Kiev bore full responsibility for the crash.

‘‘There is no doubt that the country on whose territory this terrible tragedy happened bears responsibility,’’ said Mr Putin, quoted by Ria Novosti news agency.

‘‘This tragedy would not have happened if there was peace in the country, if military operations had not resumed in the south-east of Ukraine,’’ he said.

Mr Putin also said he had asked Russian military chiefs to ‘‘provide all necessary help to shed light on this criminal act’’.

A social media site attributed to top Ukrainian rebel commander Igor Strelkov says the insurgents had shot down what they believed to be an army transporter at the location where the plane crashed.

The post attributed to Mr Strelkov notes that separatist fighters ‘‘had warned  [the Ukrainian armed forces] not to fly in  ‘our sky’’’.

‘‘And here is a video confirming that a  ‘bird fell’,’’ said the post.

Several cargo and military planes have reportedly been shot down in the area over the past month.

Kiev accused the pro-Russian separatists battling Ukrainian forces of the ‘‘terrorist act’’ as stunned world leaders called for a full investigation into the disaster, which could further fan the flames of the worst East-West crisis since the Cold War.

The United States has demanded an ‘‘unimpeded’’ international inquiry, while the White House response to the tragedy was a clear rebuttal to Mr Putin’s charge that Ukraine’s crackdown on separatist rebels stoked tensions that led to the crash.

‘‘While we do not yet have all the facts, we do know that this incident occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fuelled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, material, and training,’’ the White House said in a statement.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was clear that the flight was brought down in territory held by Russia-backed rebels likely to be using Russian-supplied heavy artillery.

‘‘The initial response of the Russian ambassador was to blame Ukraine for this and I have to say that is deeply, deeply unsatisfactory,’’ he said.

The Prime Minister said Australia would press the UN Security Council to initiate an international investigation of what has been described as a terrorist attack.

Rescue workers at the crash site say they have found one of the black boxes from the passenger liner.

Emergency crews are working through the debris of the downed jet, spread out across an area stretching for kilometres, while rebels controlling the area have pledged to allow international investigators access to the site.

Dozens of mutilated corpses and body parts were strewn around the smouldering wreckage in the village of Grabove, near the Russian border. Shocked residents of the village said the crash felt ‘‘like an earthquake’’.

News of the crash sent European, US and Asian stock markets tumbling. Shares in Malaysia Airlines plummeted almost 18 per cent yesterday morning.

The downing of flight MH17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, heaps new distress on Malaysia and its flag carrier, which is still afflicted by the trauma and global stigma of flight MH370’s disappearance four months ago.

The flight also included 43 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians and nine Britons.

The UN Security Council called an emergency session yesterday to discuss the disaster.

‘‘This is a tragic day, in what has already been a tragic year, for Malaysia,’’ Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak told a press conference  yesterday.

Mr Najib added that a team of disaster response specialists had been dispatched to Kiev and that authorities in Ukraine had agreed to try to establish ‘‘a humanitarian corridor to the crash site’’.

Two US officials said intelligence analysts were reviewing the data to see whether the missile used to down the aircraft was launched by pro-Moscow separatists, Russian troops across the border or Ukrainian government forces.

‘‘We are working through all the analysis,’’ said one official, adding that there was little doubt that the plane was struck by a surface-to-air missile.

The shooting down of civilian aircraft is extremely rare, and if proved the case, the downing of the MH17 would be one of the deadliest yet.

AFP

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has urged Russia to fall in line with the international community and back a swift investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement calling for a ‘‘full, thorough and independent international investigation’’ into the MH17 flight, which was apparently shot down above disputed territory in eastern Ukraine.

Ms Bishop said a binding UN resolution was needed to ensure the bodies could be repatriated and the crash fully understood.

‘‘We need an immediate, urgent, international investigation,’’ she told the Seven Network on Saturday.‘‘

Australia welcomes the statement of the UN Security Council, but we need more.’’

Authorities say 28 Australians were among 298 people killed in the crash.Ms Bishop said Australia has sent a team of 12 representatives to Ukraine, including six who are on the ground.‘‘

They will be working with other governments and other authorities to ensure the crash site is secure,’’ she said.

Ms Bishop said if the Russian government truly believed Ukraine was responsible for the crash, they would back an independent investigation.

‘‘We expect, indeed we require, Russia’s support for this investigation to take place,’’ she said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has called Russia’s initial response to the MH17 disaster ‘‘deeply unsatisfactory’’.

AS the Australian death toll climbed from the Malaysia Airlines disaster, a common theme emerged among the victims.

Decent, everyday Australians who contributed to society.

Take Sydney nun Sister Philomene Tiernan or former primary school deputy principal Michael Clancy.

Or Nick Norris, who was returning from a holiday with three of his grandchildren, aged eight to 12, all of whom died.

There was college teacher Francesca ‘‘Frankie’’ Davison, well-loved community figure Albert Rizk and Canberra mother-of-two Liliane Derden, who worked for the National Health and Medical Research Council.

At least 28 Australians perished in the tragedy, and it’s feared that number could rise.

Keen sailor Mr Norris, from Western Australia, leaves behind his wife, Lindy, a Murdoch University professor, and four children.

These include daughter Kirstin, a marine engineer with the Royal Australian Navy, and son Brack, who is the marketing manager with his father’s company.

Brack Norris said he heard the news from one of his sisters. ‘‘She called me at 5.30am ... and said that the plane that dad was on had been shot down,’’ he said.

‘‘Quite shocking and disbelieving that we’re actually in this situation.’’

Sister Philomene, 77, was another who will be greatly missed, having mentored thousands of children in her 30-plus years as a teacher and director of boarding at Sydney Catholic school Kincoppal-Rose Bay.

‘‘The impact of this is just unbelievable in the whole community,’’ a year 12 boarding student said.

‘‘It comes as a shock to us all.’’

Ms Davison and her husband, Liam, were among the nine Victorians believed to have died in the crash. They had two children.

Meanwhile, the Perth-based parents of a technology company founder are distraught because their daughter was expected to be on MH17 and cannot be reached.

Mosman Park-based doctor Jerzy Dyczynski and his wife, Angela, arrived in Perth  late yesterday afternoon, saying they did not know the whereabouts of their daughter Fatima Dyczynski

By MARK KENNY and DAVID WROE

AUSTRALIA has issued a blunt ultimatum to Moscow and is reconsidering Vladimir Putin’s attendance at the G20 in November as the world reels from the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which killed 298 people – 28 of them Australians.

It will also use its membership of the UN Security Council to push for absolute access to the crash site, the black box and any witnesses, in a move that is already provoking Russian resistance.

Declaring the tragedy  a crime not an accident, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Russia now faced a crucial test of its international citizenship. He called on the international community to take the strongest possible action to ensure such an ‘‘outrage’’ was never repeated.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop had emerged from a meeting with Russia’s ambassador to Australia, Vladimir Morozov,  to reveal that Moscow had denied the involvement of pro-Russian rebels and tried to blame Ukraine.

Mr Abbott said he was angry at the loss of innocent Australian lives and was deeply unsatisfied at Russia’s rejection of  culpability.

He said he took the dimmest possible view of countries that  facilitated the killing of Australian citizens – a reference to the use of a sophisticated Russian  surface-to-air missile system to shoot the airliner from the sky.

Mr Abbott confirmed a total death toll of 298, nearly half from the Netherlands, and said he had been advised  ‘‘the final number of Australians aboard is 28’’.

Of those, nine were from Queensland, 10 from Victoria, seven from Western Australia, and one each from the ACT and NSW. The place of residence of the 28th person had not been established at time of printing.

He said a date for a national day of mourning  would be  announced  and  he and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove would attend church services  today and tomorrow.

By DANIEL FLITTON

THE prime suspect goes by the name Strelkov – or ‘‘shooter’’. Real name Igor Girkin, the former Russian intelligence officer has shot his own troops for insubordination. He may have just shot down a passenger plane with 298 people on board.

‘‘We did warn you – do not fly in our sky,’’ he reportedly posted to a Russian social media page.

This chilling message was most probably aimed at the Ukraine government, Mr Girkin’s target in a separatist war.

But that post has now been deleted as it has become clear the jet was from Malaysia Airlines, not a military transport aircraft of the type Mr Girkin has brought down in recent weeks.

No amateur can bring down a passenger jet. A trained operator must work the sophisticated surface-to-air missiles required. 

The professionalism required points to Mr Girkin and his Russian-backed separatists as the most likely suspects.

They have captured missile batteries mounted on trucks and are suspected to have been supplied Russian-made ‘‘needle’’ portable launchers that can be carried by a man.

But it is far from clear whether Moscow condoned this atrocity.

The conflict in Ukraine has boiled for months since Russian commandos in February seized control of the Crimean peninsula.

A referendum in March  saw the territory incorporated into Russia.

Ever since, Mr Girkin and others have been fighting in the east of Ukraine, with persistent reports of Russian forces staging strikes across the nearby border.

THE Malaysian airliner apparently shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine was flying over airspace that a number of other Asian carriers  abandoned months ago because of security concerns.

Several airlines who were still using Ukrainian airspace  quickly acted yesterday to re-route their long-haul flights.

South Korea’s two main airlines, Korean Air and Asiana, as well as Australia’s Qantas and Taiwan’s China Airlines said they had all re-routed flights from as early as the beginning of March when Russian troops moved into Crimea.

‘‘We stopped flying over Ukraine because of safety concerns,’’ Asiana spokeswoman Lee Hyo-Min said.

Korean Air moved its flight paths 250 kilometres south of Ukraine from March 3 ‘‘due to the political unrest in the region’’, a spokesperson for the carrier said.

A Qantas spokeswoman said its London to Dubai service used to fly over Ukraine, but the route was changed ‘‘several months ago’’, while Taiwan’s China Airlines diverted its flights from April 3.

Quizzed as to why Malaysia Airlines had not taken similar precautions, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said  air authorities had deemed the flight path secure.

‘‘The aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization. And [the] International Air Transport Association has stated that the airspace the aircraft was traversing was not subject to restrictions,’’ he said.

Re-routing would have involved a longer flight time and therefore higher fuel costs. Singapore Airlines said in a statement that it had been using Ukrainian airspace but had ‘‘re-routed all our flights’’ to alternative corridors.

Eurocontrol said the doomed plane was flying at a level known as ‘‘330’’, or approximately 10,000 metres or 33,000 feet, when it disappeared from radar screens.

The route itself had been closed to level ‘‘320’’ but was cleared for those flying at the Malaysian plane’s altitude.

Gerry Soejatman, a consultant with the Jakarta-based Whitesky Aviation chartered flight provider, said airlines that flew over conflict zones were not necessarily negligent.

‘‘Every airline does its own risk assessment,’’ Soejatman said, adding that flying above 30,000 feet was generally considered secure given the level of training and sophisticated weaponry required to shoot down a plane at that height.

‘‘I think this will send a message to airlines to have a closer look at conflict zones when they choose to fly over them and gain a better understanding of what equipment is on the ground,’’ he said.

Air India and Thai Airways said they had both started re-routing flights away from Ukraine as a direct result of the Malaysian crash.

Air China and China Eastern Airways had 28 flights a week passing over eastern Ukraine, but China’s Civil Aviation Administration said yesterday it had ordered all carriers to circumvent the region. 

Vietnam Airlines said it  suspended four long-haul flights to Europe.  

AFP

TWO Boeing 777s. Two incredibly rare aviation disasters. And one airline.

In what appears to be an extreme coincidence, Malaysia is reeling from the second tragedy to hit its national airline in less than five months.

On March 8, a Malaysia Airlines jetliner vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur, spawning an international mystery that remains unsolved. On Thursday, the airline – and the nation – were pitched into another crisis after the same type of aircraft was reported shot down over Ukraine.

Ukraine said the plane was brought down by a missile over the violence-racked eastern part of the country. 

 The  airline and the nation must now prepare for another agonising encounter with grief, recriminations, international scrutiny and serious legal and diplomatic implications.

‘‘This is a tragic day in what has already been a tragic year for Malaysia,’’ Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said.

Amid it all, a question: Just how could disaster strike the airline twice in such a short space of time?

‘‘Either one of these events has an unbelievably low probability,’’ said John Cox, president and CEO of Safety Operating Systems and a former airline pilot and accident investigator.

‘‘To have two in a just a few months of each other is certainly unprecedented.’’

The first disaster deeply scarred Malaysia and left the world dumbstruck. How could a Boeing 777-200ER, a modern jumbo jet, simply disappear? Flight 370 had veered off course during a flight to Beijing and is believed to have crashed in the Indian Ocean far off the western Australian coast.

The search area has changed several times. But no sign of the aircraft or the 239 people aboard has been found. How the plane got there remains a mystery.

On Thursday there was no mystery over the whereabouts of the Boeing 777-200ER, which went down on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Its wreckage was found  and there were no survivors.

Officials said the plane was shot down at an altitude of 10,000 metres. The region has seen severe fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists in recent days.

Malaysia Airlines was widely criticised for the way it handled the Flight 370 hunt and investigation  and there have been persistent conspiracy theories over the fate of the plane, including that it might have been shot down.

There was no immediate reason to think the two disasters to befall the airline were in any way linked.

Charles Oman, a lecturer at the department of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

‘‘Given the military conflict in the region, one has to be concerned that identities could have been mistaken,’’ he said in an email. 

AP