WASHINGTON- International monitors who have finally gained full access to the Malaysia Airlines crash site in eastern Ukraine said Tuesday the Boeing 777's cockpit inexplicably had been sawed in half while under the control of Russian-backed separates.
The monitors said they are not sure why the major piece of evidence from the downed plane was tampered with.
Flight 17, carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew members, crashed Thursday after being hit by what U.S. officials suspect was a surface-to-air missile launched from an area controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
The separatists and Russia have denied shooting down the plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Georgia's U.S. Senator, Saxby Chambliss, says Russian President Putin should be held accountable. Senator Chambliss is the vice chairman of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence,and issued the a statement on Tuesday.
"My deepest sympathy goes out to the families of the passengers killed in Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. While I am grateful the separatists have turned over the bodies of many of the victims, their cooperation with the international community is long overdue.
I strongly urge the separatists to allow unfettered access to the site so that international investigators can conduct a transparent and thorough investigation. I am confident the investigation will conclude that a SA-11 surface-to-air missile shot from territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane.
Vladimir Putin should be held accountable regardless of whether it was a Russian soldier or a Russian-sponsored separatist who launched this missile. Putin should immediately withdraw any support he is providing to the separatists and his forces from Ukraine. If that does not happen, the United States should consider giving stronger military assistance to the Ukrainian government."
Sneator Johnny Isakson mirrored the call for Russian accountability in a statement he sent to 11Alive Tuesday evening:
"My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, shot down in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine," said Isakson. "It is critical that the international community work to protect the integrity of the ongoing investigation into this horrific tragedy. The separatists in the region must also allow unrestricted access to the crash site."
"I am confident the investigation will conclude that a surface-to-air missile shot from territory controlled by pro-Russian separatists brought down the plane. President Putin bears direct responsibility for this outrageous act and should act immediately to end Russia's interference in Ukraine's internal affairs."
"We as a country cannot stand for Russia's deliberate disregard for international law, and there must be consequences for the rogue actions by the Russian-sponsored separatists responsible for this terrible tragedy."