By Rebecca Shabad - 07/21/14 01:23 PM EDT
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Monday that the leader of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine has agreed to hand over both black boxes from Flight MH17 to Malaysian investigators, according to The Associated Press.
Najib also said he had reached a deal with rebel leader Alexander Borodai Monday to provide independent international investigators with “safe access” to the crash site.
State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States can’t “confirm independently” reports about the deal between the rebels and Malaysia, but said if true, “it would be a step in the right direction.”
Such a deal in no way, however, “legitimizes” the leader who has claimed leadership in Eastern Ukraine, Harf added.
The U.S. believes pro-Russian separatists are responsible for shooting it down using a Buk missile launcher.
Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill have said they suspect Russia played a role in the crash and might have recently transferred the launcher and other weapons to the rebels.
President Obama on Monday said it is up to Russia to ensure international investigators have access to the crash site.
— This story was updated at 2:18 p.m.