Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe monitors and journalists gather near a pro-Russian separatist standing guard by bodies at the crash site. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
Ukraine has accused Russia and pro-Moscow rebels of
destroying evidence to cover up their guilt in the shooting
down of a Malaysian airliner that has accelerated a showdown
between the Kremlin and Western powers.
As militants kept international monitors away from wreckage
and scores of bodies festered for a third day, Russian
President Vladimir Putin urged the rebels to cooperate and
insisted that a UN-mandated investigation must not leap to
conclusions. Moscow denies involvement and has pointed a
finger at Kiev's military.
The Dutch government, whose citizens made up more than half
the 298 aboard MH17 from Amsterdam, said it was "furious" at
the manhandling of corpses strewn for miles over open country
and asked Ukraine's president for help to bring "our people"
After US President Barack Obama said the loss of the Kuala
Lumpur-bound flight showed it was time to end the conflict,
Germany called it Moscow's last chance to cooperate.
European powers seemed to swing behind Washington's belief
Russia's separatist allies were to blame. That might speed
new trade sanctions on Moscow, without waiting for definitive
"He has one last chance to show he means to help," Dutch
Prime Minister Mark Rutte said after a telephone call to
Britain, which lost 10 citizens, said Prime Minister David
Cameron agreed with Rutte that the European Union, warier
than Washington of hurting its own economy by imposing
sanctions, should reconsider its approach due to evidence of
rebel guilt. On Friday, Cameron had urged caution before an
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most powerful figure in
the EU, spoke to Putin on Saturday, urging his cooperation.
Merkel's foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Bild
am Sonntag newspaper: "Moscow may have a last chance now to
show that it really is seriously interested in a solution."
"Now is the moment for everyone to stop and think to
themselves what might happen if we don't stop the
Germany, reliant like other EU states on Russian energy and
more engaged in Russian trade than the United States, has
been reluctant to escalate a confrontation with Moscow that
has revived memories of the Cold War. But with military
action not seen as an option, economic leverage is a vital
Russia said on Saturday it was retaliating against sanctions
imposed by the United States last week, before the air
disaster, by barring entry to unnamed Americans and warned of
a "boomerang effect" on US business. But Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry did agree
in a phone call to try and get both sides in Ukraine to reach
a consensus on peace.
Driving home its assertion that the Boeing 777 was hit by a
Russian SA-11 radar-guided missile, Ukraine's Western-backed
government said it had "compelling evidence" the battery was
not just brought in from Russia but manned by three Russian
citizens who had now taken the truck-mounted system back over
The prime minister, denying Russian suggestions that Kiev's
forces had fired a missile, said only a "very professional"
crew could have brought down the speeding jetliner from
33,000 feet - not "drunken gorillas" among the ill-trained
insurgents who want the Russian-speaking east to be annexed
Fighting flared in eastern Ukraine on Saturday. The
government said it was pressing its offensive in the east.
Observers from Europe's OSCE security agency visited part of
the crash site near the village of Hrabove for a second day
on Saturday and again found their access hampered by armed
men from the forces of the self-declared People's Republic of
Donetsk. An OSCE official said, however, they saw more than
At one point, a Reuters correspondent heard a senior rebel
tell the OSCE delegation they could not approach the wreckage
and would simply be informed in due course of an
investigation conducted by the separatists. However, fighters
later let them visit an area where one of the airliner's two
"The terrorists, with the help of Russia, are trying to
destroy evidence of international crimes," the Ukrainian
government said in a statement. "The terrorists have taken 38
bodies to the morgue in Donetsk," it said, accusing people
with "strong Russian accents" of threatening to conduct
Ukraine's prime minister said armed men barred government
experts from collecting evidence.
In the regional capital Donetsk, the prime minister of the
separatist authorities told a news conference that Kiev was
holding up the arrival of international experts whose mission
to probe the cause - and potentially blame - for the disaster
was authorised on Friday by the United Nations Security
And contrary to earlier statements by the rebels, Alexander
Borodai said they had not found the black box flight
recorders. He said rebels were avoiding disturbing the area.
"There's a grandmother. A body landed right in her bed. She
says 'please take this body away'. But we cannot tamper with
the site," Borodai said. "Bodies of innocent people are lying
out in the heat. We reserve the right, if the delay continues
... to begin the process of taking away the bodies. We ask
the Russian Federation to help us with this problem and send
Midday temperatures are around 30 Celsius (85 Fahrenheit).
At Hrabove, one armed man from the separatist forces told
Reuters that bodies had already been taken away in trucks.
Another said that immediately after the crash people had
looted valuables. But fighters and local people say they have
been doing their best to collect evidence and preserve human
As the stench of death began to pervade the area after
Thursday's crash, correspondents watched rescue workers carry
bodies across the fields and gather remains in black sacks.
Meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Kiev, Dutch
Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said: "We are already
shocked by the news we got today of bodies being dragged
around, of the site not being treated properly ... People are
The Ukrainian security council in Kiev said staff of the
emergencies ministry had found 186 bodies and had checked
some 18 sq.km (7 square miles) of the scattered 25-sq.km
crash site. But the workers were not free to conduct a normal
"The fighters have let the Emergencies Ministry workers in
there but they are not allowing them to take anything from
the area," security council spokesman Andriy Lysenko said.
"The fighters are taking away all that has been found."
Malaysia, whose national airline has been battered by its
second major disaster this year, said it was "inhumane" to
bar access to the site around the village of Hrabove, near
the city Donetsk, but said Russia was doing its "level best"
A team of Malaysian experts flew in to Kiev on Saturday and
experts from Interpol are due there on Sunday to help with
the identification of victims. Dutch, US and a host of other
specialists are being lined up to help in the investigation.
Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said before
flying to Kiev it would be "inhumane" not to have access and
said Moscow was helping: "They are trying their level best to
assist Malaysia to ensure we have a safe site," Liow said.
As tales of personal grief unfolded, Malaysian Prime Minister
Najib Razak revealed his own family was involved - his
83-year-old step-grandmother had been aboard the flight.
The United Nations said 80 children were aboard. The
deadliest attack on a commercial airliner, follows the
disappearance of flight MH370 in March with 239 passengers.
The company has defended its use of the route, 1,000 feet
above the area close by Ukraine due to the hostilities. Some
airlines had been avoiding the area, though many others were
flying over. The issue has raised questions of liability for
the deaths and damage and about international supervisors'
The scale of the disaster could prove a turning point for
international pressure to resolve the crisis in Ukraine,
which has killed hundreds since pro-Western protests toppled
the Moscow-backed president in Kiev in February and Russia
annexed the Crimea peninsula a month later.