Rebels release train with bodies from downed jet

2014-07-22 06:13
Emergency workers load the body of a victim on a truck at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. (Vadim Ghirda, AP)

Emergency workers load the body of a victim on a truck at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. (Vadim Ghirda, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Hrabove - Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Russia's Defence Ministry said on Monday it saw no evidence a missile was fired and denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17 - and suggested the Ukrainian military was at fault.

President Vladimir Putin spoke out but showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.

President Barack Obama accused the rebels of tampering with evidence and insulting victims' families, warning of new sanctions. Europeans will consider their own sanctions on Tuesday.

The bodies of the 298 victims, most from the Netherlands, have become a part of the conflict in Ukraine because they could hold evidence of what brought the plane down on 17 July as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Grief turned to anger as families begged to get the bodies of their loved ones back, while the separatists held on to the remains.

"Bodies are just lying there for three days in the hot sun. There are people who have this on their conscience," said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died on their way to a vacation in Bali, in an interview with The Associated Press in the Netherlands.

"When I am in my bed at night, I see my son lying on the ground. ... They have to come home, not only those two. Everybody has to come home."

International forensics experts finally gained access to the crash site Monday - an emotional experience for the head of the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team, Peter Van Vliet. Seeing the wreckage gave him goosebumps, he said.

The team stumbled across remains that had not yet been removed and inspected the perished passengers' luggage.

In Torez, a rebel-held town 15km from the crash site, inspectors bowed heads and clasped hands before climbing aboard refrigerated train cars holding the collected bodies. Armed rebels surrounded them, while commuters boarded other trains nearby.

The smell of decay was overwhelming. Workers wore masks, while passersby twisted their faces in horror at the odour. Temperatures hit 29°C, and a train engineer told the AP that a power outage had hit the refrigeration system temporarily overnight.

The rebels in Torez did not appear too conciliatory as the tense day wore on. They repeatedly tried to block reporters from access to the visiting experts, growing more aggressive throughout.

Late on Monday, trucks arrived at the Torez station with plastic bags apparently filled with body parts, as well as piles of luggage - suitcases, backpacks, a purse with a Louis Vuitton label.

Ukrainian authorities said the total number of bodies recovered was 282.

Dutch investigators demanded the separatists transfer the bodies immediately, and the rebels complied after several hours.

With a long whistle and puff of smoke, the train bearing the bodies pulled slowly out of the station. Rebels holding automatic rifles walked alongside as it chugged away, a cluster of children on bicycles looking on.

It was headed through troubled territory, its destination not 100 percent clear.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the train was heading for the rebel-held city of Donetsk, 50km west of the crash site, and then on to Kharkiv, site of a crisis centre controlled by the Ukrainian government.

He said Ukrainian authorities have agreed to let the bodies be transferred from there to the Netherlands for identification, but gave no time frame.

Early on Tuesday, the rebels handed over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Donetsk. A rebel leader, Alexander Borodai, said the orange-coloured flight recorders were being handed over to Malaysian officials on the condition that they would be delivered to experts at the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

"I can see that the black box is intact even though a little bit damaged, but in a good condition," Colonel Mohamad Sakri of the Malaysian National Security Council. He added that the number one priority was for the bodies of the victims to be delivered to Amsterdam.

The Russian Defence Ministry offered its own evidence on Monday, showing photos it said proved that Ukrainian surface-to-air systems were operating in the area before the crash - nine times alone the day the plane was brought down.

Russian officials also said they had evidence a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet had flown "between 3 to 5 kilometers" from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

"[The plane] is armed with air-to-air R-60 rockets, which can hit a target from a distance of up to 12km and guaranteed within 5km," said the chief of Russia's General staff, Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartopolov.

Defence Ministry officials insisted Russia had not given the rebels any surface-to-air missiles - and said they have no evidence that any missiles were launched at all. They asked the US to share any satellite images of the launch.

Putin accused others of exploiting the downing of the plane for "mercenary objectives". He said Kiev authorities had reignited the fighting after a unilateral cease-fire expired without progress on peace talks.

On Sunday, the US said there was "powerful" evidence that the rebels had shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile, including video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, being driven away from the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the missile strike and phone recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

- AP
Read more on:    malaysia airlines  |  barack obama  |  vladimir putin  |  ukraine  |  mh17
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
32 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/Travel
 

LOL treadmill fail!

Watch this hilarious clip! We think this man should rather be running outside this summer!

 
 

I love summer.24

Google’s top searches of 2014
10 of the strangest Christmas traditions around the world
2014's best drone videos
7 drinks you need to make this party season

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

15% off LEGO

Save 15% when you buy 2 or more Lego toys. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Any chance to explore the distant shores of things yet to be found will fascinate you. The challenge is dealing with the issues...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.