MH17 plane crash: Dutch experts examine bodies

MH17 plane crash: Dutch experts examine bodies

Three Dutch investigators have examined bodies from the crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane, which are being kept on a train in east Ukraine.

The experts said the train may later leave the rebel-held town of Torez to start identification process.

The US and other nations say there is growing evidence of Russian complicity in the downing of the plane last week. All 298 people on board MH17 died.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting is reported in the main rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Reports say clashes – involving heavy weapons – are going near the city’s airport and the railway station.

One multi-storey building was seen on fire, and BBC correspondents on the ground spoke of a number of refugees fleeing the city.

Natalia Antelava is handed passenger documents by volunteers at the crash site: “It shows you how badly organised it is… they don’t know who to give this to”

In other developments on Monday:

  • Ukrainian officials say 272 bodies have so far been found
  • Ukrainian PM Arseniy Yatsenyuk proposes that the Netherlands will lead an international investigation
  • A separate group of 31 international investigators is now in the eastern city of Kharkiv. They are expected to proceed closer to the crash site shortly.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin says it is essential to give international experts complete security so they can conduct an independent investigation

‘Wake-up call’

The Dutch experts are the first international investigators to arrive in the region where the Boeing 777 went down on 17 June.

Dutch investigators and OSCE monitors examine the bodies in Torez. Photo: 21 July 2014It remains unclear when the train can be moved from Torez
Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a bag at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines. Photo: 21 July 2014 Ukrainian officials say 272 bodies have now been found at the crash site
Refrigerator wagons in Torez with the bodies of victims of the plane crash. Photo: 21 JulyTough negotiations are continuing about moving the train with the bodies from the rebel-held area

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been at the accident site, but their access to the wreckage has been limited by the rebels.

On Monday, the Dutch experts examined some of the 196 bodies kept in refrigerator wagons in Torez, some 15km (9 miles) away from the crash site.

A second train arrived there on Sunday to take more bodies on board.

Pressure has been steadily growing on pro-Russian rebels to allow experts to the site.

Flight MH17 died when it was reportedly hit by a missile.

Russia has been accused of providing the rebels with an anti-aircraft system that was allegedly used in the attack on 17 June. It denies the allegations.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost 193 people, said all political and economic options were on the table if access to the crash site remained unsatisfactory.

“We want our people back,” he told parliament in The Hague.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop earlier called on pro-Russian separatists not to use the bodies as pawns in their conflict with the Ukrainian authorities.

“There are 298 bodies on that site – their families, their loved ones want them home now,” she said.

Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry the US had seen major military supplies moving into Ukraine from Russia in the last month, including a convoy of armoured personnel carriers, tanks and rocket launchers.

John Kerry: “The lack of access makes its own statement about culpability and responsibility”.

Intercepted calls suggested a Russian SA-11 missile system – also known as BUK – had been transferred to the rebels, Mr Kerry said, and the US had seen a video of a launcher being moved back into Russia after flight MH17 crashed.

“There’s [an] enormous amount of evidence that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them,” Mr Kerry said on a US TV network.

He threatened further sanctions on Russia and called on European allies to get tougher with President Putin after the “wake-up call”.

Meanwhile, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said Europe and the West “must fundamentally change our approach to Russia” if Mr Putin “does not change his approach to Ukraine”.

‘Site compromised’

The rebels say they will hand over MH17’s flight recorders to the International Civil Aviation Organization, but the US state department said rebels had tampered with other potential evidence.

Heavy machinery could be seen moving plane debris around at the crash site on Sunday.

Footage appears to show one of the plane’s data recorders being moved

A Malaysian team of 133 officials and experts, comprising of search and recovery personnel, forensics experts, technical and medical experts has arrived in Ukraine. A separate UK group of air accident investigators is also there.

But the government in Kiev says it has been unable to establish a safe corridor to the crash site.

Fighting remains ongoing in eastern Ukraine between the separatist rebels and government forces in a conflict which erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The passenger list released by Malaysia Airlines shows the plane was carrying 193 Dutch nationals, including one with dual US nationality.

Other victims included 43 Malaysians (including 15 crew), 27 Australians, 12 Indonesians, 10 Britons, four Germans, four Belgians, three from the Philippines, and one from both Canada and New Zealand.

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