WATCH ABOVE: (Jul. 19, 2014) The Russian-backed rebels say they’re not interfering with anything. For the families of the dead, the pain is gut-wrenching. Mike Armstrong reports.
TORONTO – Canada has joined other counties in demanding that pro-Russian forces in Eastern Ukraine withdraw from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 to allow for an “unimpeded and international investigation” into the facts surrounding the passenger plane that was shot down earlier this week.
The announcement came amid concerns that the crash site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine may be compromised.
WATCH: CBS News reports on investigators’ trouble accessing Malaysia plane crash site in Ukraine.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did not mince words in a media release Saturday afternoon, strongly suggesting that the plane carrying 298 civilians, including one Canadian, was shot down by pro-Russian militants.
“It is increasingly clear that this was an outrageous crime perpetrated against hundreds of innocent civilians, of many nationalities. Evidence suggests the airliner was brought down by a surface-to-air missile from an area controlled by pro-Russian provocateurs in eastern Ukraine,” said Baird, who placed the blame for the tragic circumstances squarely on Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“The conflict in eastern Ukraine is both generated by, and perpetrated by, the Putin regime. Evidence of Russian financial and material support to illegal armed groups in eastern Ukraine is both clear and compelling.”
Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 283 passengers and 15 crew Thursday when it was shot down in eastern Ukraine close to the Russian border, an area that has seen months of clashes between government troops and pro-Russia separatists. The victims came from 13 nations, including 192 Dutch citizens and 80 children.
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner likely was downed by an SA-11 missile and “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel.”
WATCH: Netherlands government pressing Putin for answers in Flight MH17 crash
Ukraine on Saturday accused Russia of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site – a report the rebels denied.
With files from the Associated Press