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Russia: info 'war' in Malaysian plane disaster

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Russia's U.N. ambassador cast doubt on the Netherlands-led investigation into the downing of a Malaysian Airlines jet over eastern Ukraine's rebel territory and called Friday for a new probe assisted by the United Nations.

The countries that lost most of the 298 victims on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia — as well as the United States and most other members of the U.N. Security Council strongly supported the Dutch-led international probe that involves dozens of detectives.

The chief Dutch prosecutor overseeing the criminal investigation said last week that the "most likely" scenario was that the plane was shot in July down from the ground. The Dutch Safety Board's preliminary report did not say who might have been responsible.

Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the council Friday that several countries, which he did not identify, had used the disaster "to exacerbate international tensions," blaming Russian-backed Ukrainian rebels without any verified proof and holding Russia responsible "for the perpetration of serious international violations."

"We feel this was an act of an information war, a blatant intervention that hindered the investigation of the incident as well as a political attempt to predetermine the results of the investigation," he said.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant accused Russia of trying to undermine the ongoing "credible independent investigation."

Lithuania's U.N. Ambassador Raimonda Murmokaite stressed that "not a single country has raised doubts" about the Netherlands-led investigation or claimed that it is flawed.

Churkin, who called for the meeting, said the preliminary report released Sept. 9 lacks "convincing information about the circumstances of the crash."

It said the Boeing 777 broke apart over Ukraine due to penetration by a large number of "high-energy objects from outside the aircraft."

The Russian ambassador said the Security Council needs to resolve "a number of thorny issues," including establishing a halt to all military activities at the disaster site and promoting "swift and safe access" for investigators. He said the resolution adopted by the council after the crash called for the U.N. to determine possible options for U.N. assistance but it hasn't yet produced any.

Churkin added that the U.N. and the council may have to think about possibly establishing a special representative of the secretary-general on the issue of the disaster.

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said Churkin made clear that Moscow's "real intention is not to learn about the investigation, but to discredit it."

Australia's Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said her nation supports U.N. political chief Jeffrey Feltman's statement to the council that the world body is confident the Dutch-led probe is being handled properly.

Bishop called on Russia to use its influence over separatists to ensure safe access to the site for investigators from Netherlands, Malaysia and Australia.

The ongoing conflict between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces has prevented investigators from visiting the fields where the wreckage of Flight 17 plunged to the ground. That likely contributed to the cautious assessment by the Dutch board, which is expected to issue its full report is expected within a year of the disaster.

Churkin said Moscow wants the investigators to return but said the only way a transparent and objective international investigation can be carried out is with the participation of the United Nations.

Pro-Russian rebels officially deny having shot down the plane. However, a highly placed rebel officer told the AP in an interview in the aftermath of the disaster that the plane was shot down by a mixed team of rebels and Russian military personnel who believed they were targeting a Ukrainian military plane.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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