Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai will fly to the Ukraine capital of Kyiv on Saturday to ensure an investigating team gets safe access to the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.

The United States believes the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from rebel-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed.

"We will want to ensure a safe corridor to the site," Liow told reporters. "We sent a team to Kyiv yesterday night. I will be leaving for Kyiv tonight to ensure we have access to the site." 

Defence Minister and former Transport Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, the public face of the government during the crisis over the missing MH370 airliner in March, said the main priority was to ensure security and that any debris was not tampered with.

"We want to get to the bottom of this," he added, saying international cooperation was needed and that Malaysia had been in touch with officials in Russia, Ukraine, the United States, Britain and China. 


Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, left, with Transport Minister Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai. "We will want to ensure a safe corridor to the site," Liow said. (Edgar Su/Reuters)

"We do not have a position until the facts have been verified, whether the plane was really brought down, how it was brought down, who brought it down."

Emergency workers and local coal miners recovered bodies from grasslands and fields of sunflowers, where the wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell Thursday.

About 30 officials, mostly from the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe, arrived at the crash site between the villages of Rozsypne and Hrabove, about 40 kilometres from the Russian border.

Among them was Canadian Michael Bociurkiw.

Reached by phone in Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, Bociurkiw told CBC Radio's As it Happens that the group's efforts were hampered by threatening behaviour by armed guards in the rebel-held territory.

"We were greeted by physically agitated armed individuals who clearly weren't happy to see us there," he said. "They kept us to a very small area, they were aggressive, threatening, and we were there to really just establish the facts. For example, to see how much security there is in the perimeter of the crash site, to see how many bodies were there, to see whether the bodies had been tampered with. We were able to do very, very little of that because of the behaviour of the guards."

With files from CBC News, The Associated Press