A guard stands on a train carrying the remains of victims
of Malaysia Airlines MH17 downed over rebel-held territory
in eastern Ukraine after it arrived in the city of Kharkiv,
eastern Ukraine. Photo by Reuters
A train carrying the remains of many of the 298 victims
of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived in a Ukrainian
government-held city on Tuesday on the first leg of their final
journey home to be reclaimed by their families.
Five refrigerated wagons containing 200 body bags reached the
city of Kharkiv after pro-Russian separatists agreed to hand
over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian authorities and the
bodies to the Netherlands, where many victims had lived.
The train slowly rolled into the grounds of an arms industry
plant, where the remains are due to be unloaded and flown to
the Netherlands for the lengthy process of identification.
A spokeswoman for a Dutch team of forensic experts in Kharkiv
said departure was not expected before Wednesday (local
The Malaysia Airlines plane was flying from Amsterdam to
Kuala Lumpur when it was shot down on July 17 near Donetsk, a
stronghold of pro-Russian rebels, where fighting with
Ukrainian troops flared again on Tuesday.
Western governments, including European Union ministers
meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, have threatened Russia with
broader sanctions for what they say is its backing of the
militia although they are struggling to agree a response.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would urge the
separatists to allow a full investigation which the
Netherlands said it would lead. Malaysia said it would send
the black boxes to a British lab for analysis.
"Here they are, the black boxes," separatist leader
Aleksander Borodai told journalists at the headquarters of
his self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as an armed
rebel placed the boxes on a desk.
A small group of Malaysian air crash experts became the first
international accident investigators to reach the site on
Tuesday, escorted by a convoy of international monitors and
heavily armed separatist fighters.
As they went about their work, loud explosions were heard on
the outskirts of Donetsk, some 60 km (40 miles) from the site
One shell was sticking out from a hole outside a residential
block with a pool of blood next to it.
"A woman was killed here, her son was sitting next to her
crying," said Tamara Lelyk, a 73-year-old cleaning lady.
The shooting down of the airliner has sharply deepened the
Ukrainian crisis, in which separatist gunmen in the
Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces
since pro-Western protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow
president and Russia annexed Crimea in March.
Putin said a Ukrainian military "tank attack" on Donetsk was
"unacceptable" and urged the West to put pressure on Kiev to
But Ukraine's parliament approved a presidential decree to
call up more military reserves and men under 50 to fight the
rebels in eastern Ukraine and to protect the border where
there is a concentration of Russian troops.
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council,
said 13 Ukrainian troops were killed in fighting in the east
in the last day when "terrorists" attacked the army and their
roadblocks 20 times.
The rival sides were now fighting around the city of
Lysychansk, some 130 kilometres north-east of Donetsk, he
said. Kiev also said it recaptured the adjacent town of
Severodonetsk and the rebels confirmed they were forced out.
Shaken by the deaths of nearly 300 people on the Malaysian
airliner, Western governments have threatened Russia with
European Union foreign ministers were meeting on Tuesday to
discuss further penalties against Russia, but the most they
are expected to do is to speed up implementation of sanctions
against individuals, and possibly companies, agreed in
principle last week before the plane was brought down.
France said it would deliver a second helicopter carrier to
Russia despite opposition from Britain and France,
highlighting the difficulties in reaching an agreement on a
response from Western powers.
Diplomats say more serious sanctions against whole sectors of
the Russian economy will depend largely on the line taken by
the Dutch, because of the high number of Dutch victims.
At the United Nations, the Security Council unanimously
adopted a resolution on Monday demanding those responsible
"be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with
efforts to establish accountability".
It also demanded that armed groups allow "safe, secure, full
and unrestricted access" to the crash site.
Putin noted an increased use of language of "ultimatums and
sanctions" towards Russia and called for more dialogue with
U.S. President Barack Obama said it was time for Putin and
Russia "to pivot away from the strategy that they've been
taking and get serious about trying to resolve hostilities
He said Russia had a direct responsibility to compel
separatists to cooperate with the investigation.
European security monitors said gunmen stopped them
inspecting the site on Friday and Ukrainian officials have
said separatists tampered with evidence at the crash site.
But the spokesman for the European security monitors said
they had unfettered access on Monday, and a Dutch victims
identification team was allowed to inspect the storage of the
bodies in refrigerated rail cars before they left for
The Malaysian crash experts walked through the wheat fields
by the wreckage, making notes and taking photographs on
Russia's Defence Ministry has challenged Western accusations
that pro-Russian separatists were responsible for shooting
down the airliner and said Ukrainian warplanes had flown
close to it.
The ministry also rejected accusations that Russia had
supplied the rebels with SA-11 Buk anti-aircraft missile
systems - the weapon said by Kiev and the West to have downed
the airliner - "or any other weapons".