SYDNEY - Evidence has been tampered with on an "industrial scale" at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Tuesday, calling it "a cover-up".
Abbott, whose government was behind a UN Security Council resolution that Monday unanimously demanded full access to the site in rebel-held east Ukraine, admitted progress had been made but said more needed to be done.
"There is still a long, long way to go," he told a press conference of the quest to repatriate the bodies of the dead Australians and bring those responsible for the 298 killed to justice.
"After the crime comes the cover-up," he added.
"What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale. That has to stop."
His comments came as pro-Russian separatists, who are accused of shooting down the plane, finally conceded to a furious international clamour for the bodies and the jet's black boxes to be handed over to international investigators.
It followed days of bitter wrangling in which rebels hampered experts from gaining access to the site and were accused of tampering with evidence.
"This site has been trampled from the beginning and we haven't just seen all sorts of random individuals roaming around the site, picking over the remains, picking over the wreckage. We've seen heavy equipment coming onto the site," Abbott said.
"The more recent footage suggests it's more like a building demolition. And this again is unacceptable."