New Zealand Pays Tribute to Kiwi MH17 Victims Amid World Clamor for Russian Cooperation

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Members of the clergy conduct a funeral service for the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Vladimir
Members of the clergy conduct a funeral service for the Metropolitan of Kiev and all Ukraine Vladimir at the Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery in Kiev July 7, 2014. The head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church under the Moscow patriarchate died on July 5 at the age of 78, the patriarchate said on its website. REUTERS

New Zealand pays tribute to a Kiwi woman and her Dutch husband who were among the passengers killed in the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17. According to reports, family and friends described them as a "beautiful couple."

On July 17, MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, a pro-Russian territory, by rebel forces. Reports said a surface-to-air missile had hit the Malaysia Airline jet with 298 passengers and crew on board including New Zealand resident Robert Ayley the couple, Mary Menke and Dutch husband, Gerry Menke.

The 65-year-old woman is a New Zealand native who moved to Australia when she was in her 20s. She lived with her 72-year-old husband in Victoria. The couple operated an abalone pearl company in Mallacoota and Sunbury which won a business award recently. 

Business and Tourism East Gippsland's Jeanette Seignior said the couple is a great loss to the community. Media reports said the couple had four children who said they take comfort in the fact that their parents were together when they died.

Ayley, who was the other New Zealander among the MH17 victims, was originally from Guildford, Surrey. He was living in Otaki with his wife Sharlene and two children. Ayley's wife said he was away from home for a month because he was in Europe visiting Rottweiler breeders.

Meanwhile, New Zealand has requested a special meeting of the UN Security Council to call on authorities concerned to secure the MH17 crash site for an international investigation, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully.

The dead from the downed MH17 plane include 28 Australians, 44 Malaysians, nine British and 189 Dutch.

According to a top rebel leader in Ukraine, pro-Russia fighters are willing to secure the MH17 crash site if Kiev will agree to a truce. In a statement issued on July 20, Andrei Purgin, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic's deputy premier, said they will guarantee the safety of international investigators on the crash site if Kiev will sign a ceasefire agreement.

Reports said Ukraine has accused Russia of helping rebel forces tamper with evidence at the MH17 crash site. The plane's downfall has drawn the ire of world leaders who are demanding the full cooperation of Russia in an international probe.

The Ukrainian government blamed "terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime." According to reports, Kiev released a statement that armed soldiers were hours away from "loading vital clues" in trucks to be driven across the Russian border before international investigators could reach the crash site. 

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