Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have said that they will grant access to an international team of investigators to look into the crash of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17, carrying 298 people on board, which is suspected to have been shot down by a missile on Thursday.
"Should this be confirmed, it will contravene international law and be an outrage against human decency," Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, Reuters reported on Friday.
Authorities confirmed that Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur went down near the border between Russia and Ukraine, crashing in separatist-held territory.
Ukraine officials were denied immediate access on Thursday to the crash site between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in Donetsk.
Kiev has been engaged in a deadly conflict for months with pro-Russian separatists, who have taken control of a number of regions in eastern Ukraine.
BBC News reported on Friday, however, that the rebels have promised to secure the site and allow the recovery of bodies.
The Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe confirmed the development in a statement, and said that separatist groups in Donetsk have said that they will provide "safe access and security guarantees to the national investigation commission, including international investigators, in the area under their control."
The separatists have also said that they will cooperate with Ukraine authorities in the course of recovery and investigation work.
World leaders have called on a thorough investigation into the crash, which is believed to have killed all 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Figures released by Malaysia Airlines show that the plane was carrying at least 173 Dutch nationals, 27 Australians, 44 Malaysians (including the 15 crew), 12 Indonesians and nine Britons.
Initial reports that the manifest also included 23 Americans have not been confirmed by the White House, which said on Thursday it is still checking to see whether any U.S. citizens were on board the plane.
The region where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed has been the site of hostile exchanges between Ukraine and separatist forces, with reports stating that rebels had recently downed a number of Ukraine jets flying over the territory.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk blamed "terrorists" for the shooting down of the flight, CNN reported, and called on world leaders to back the investigation and "to support the Ukrainian government to bring to justice all these [expletive] who committed this international crime."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko added: "Terrorists have killed almost 300 persons with one shot. Among them are women, children, citizens of different countries of the world."
Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied that his country bears any responsibility for the incident, however.
"This tragedy would not have happened if there were peace on this land, if the military actions had not been renewed in southeast Ukraine," Putin said in a statement on Friday. "And, certainly, the state over whose territory this occurred bears responsibility for this awful tragedy."
U.S. officials, including Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), have accused Russia of supplying weapons to Ukraine rebels and escalating tensions in the region. McCain warned on Thursday that there would be "incredible repercussions" if Russian forces or pro-Russian separatists are indeed found to be behind the crash.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said on Thursday that Poroshenko has accepted an offer for U.S. experts to help investigate the crash. Biden added that it does indeed appear that the plane crash was "not an accident" but was "blown out of the sky."
In a statement on Thursday, the White House urged all concerned parties to support an immediate cease-fire in the eastern Ukraine region in order to facilitate the international investigation. It added that it is "vital that no evidence be tampered with in any way and that all potential evidence and remains at the crash site are undisturbed."
President Barack Obama's administration noted that all the facts behind the crash are not yet known, but said that the incident "occurred in the context of a crisis in Ukraine that is fueled by Russian support for the separatists, including through arms, materiel, and training."
It urged Russia to "immediately take concrete steps to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine and to support a sustainable cease-fire and path toward peace that the Ukrainian government has consistently put forward."