The Prime Minister chaired a COBR meeting earlier this afternoon to discuss the latest information on the MH17 plane disaster and the UK’s response.
The immediate priority is still to secure unhindered access to the site to ensure that international experts can recover any further bodies and victims’ personal possessions; and air accident investigators can review the site and the wreckage. We are extremely concerned by the continued fighting in the area and call on the pro-Russian separatists to cease their armed activity in the area and on the Ukrainian government to do all they can to facilitate safe access for the Dutch and Australian led mission. Both sides need to recognise that for those who lost loved ones, it is extremely important that international experts are able to access the site.
In the Netherlands, the process for identifying and repatriating the victims continues and there are now 15 British police officers working as part of a 200 strong team to complete the process as swiftly as possible.
On the air accident investigation, the data from the black boxes has now been passed to the Dutch, who are leading the investigation, and we expect preliminary findings to be published next week. The Prime Minister made clear that the UK should continue to play an active role in the investigation, including any criminal investigation that is expected to follow.
The Prime Minister underlined the need for a strong international response to Russia’s ongoing efforts to destabilise Ukraine, noting that the EU should agree a package of sectoral sanctions today and that Europe must be willing to pursue further tough measures if Russia does not change course.
Following the COBR meeting, the Prime Minister met with some of those who lost loved ones in the disaster. The Prime Minister expressed his condolences and those of the whole country for their loss. He made clear that the government was determined to do all it can to support them over the coming difficult months, from ensuring that their loved ones are brought home as soon as possible to bring justice to those responsible for shooting down the passenger jet. The discussion focused on the repatriation process, the investigation and how to prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again.