US given only 75 minutes at crash site
By Justin Sink - 07/18/14 03:37 PM EDT
The United States is “very concerned” that international investigators were only given 75 minutes to survey the wreckage of the Malaysian Airlines jet shot down over rebel-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, the State Department said Friday.
“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,” State Department press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Friday.
About 30 members of the Geneva-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived at the crash site via helicopter, but were unable to properly survey the wreckage, officials told Reuters.
“They did not have the kind of access that they expected,” said Thomas Greminger, the council chairman. “They did not have the freedom of movement that they need to do their job. The crash site is not sealed off.”
Greminger, who is Switzerland’s ambassador to the group, said the officials “were not able to help securing this corridor that would allow access for those that would want to investigate.”
Monitors are expected to try to return to the site again on Saturday.
Psaki said the U.S. did not have any independent confirmation of reports that the separatists had taken custody of the plane's black box, which investigators hope to examine for evidence of what happened in the crash.
Earlier Friday, President Obama called on the Ukrainian government, Russia and separatists to “adhere to an immediate cease-fire” to allow an investigation of the site.
“Evidence must not be tampered with,” Obama said. “Investigators need to access the crash site. And the solemn task of returning those who were lost on board the plane to their loved ones needs to go forward immediately.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Russia had no intention of taking possession of the plane's black boxes.
“We do not plan to take these boxes. We do not plan to violate existing norms for such situations,” Lavrov told Russian television, according to CBS News. “We want international experts to get to the site of the crash as soon as possible so that they get the black boxes right away.”
Psaki said the U.S. was dispatching at least one individual from the National Transportation Safety Board and one from the FBI to assist in the international investigation.
“The FBI clearly has a range of important expertise in criminal investigations. I think that's expertise that could — we don't know — could come in handy in this case,” Psaki said. “That's what they will be offering. So there will be a range of expertise and entities that will participate in this investigation.”