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Remains of MH17 victims to be handed over to Dutch authorities

A deal was reportedly also reached today with Ukrainian separatists over the recovery of the flight’s black boxes.

A pro-Russia fighter guards the platform in Torez, eastern Ukraine, as the train bearing bodies of MH17 victims leaves the station.
A pro-Russia fighter guards the platform in Torez, eastern Ukraine, as the train bearing bodies of MH17 victims leaves the station.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

THE REMAINS OF Flight MH17 victims will be handed over to the Netherlands, while Malaysia will receive the doomed plane’s black boxes after Kuala Lumpur struck a breakthrough deal with Ukrainian separatists today.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had agreed with the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, that the remains of 282 people will be moved by train to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and handed over.

With the backing of Russia, the UN Security Council today unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet and demanding crash site access in rebel-held east Ukraine.

Australia took the lead in drafting the resolution that was adopted after some changes were made to satisfy Moscow.

The measure called for a full, independent international investigation of the Malaysia Airlines plane disaster and demanded that those responsible face justice.

“We must have answers. We must have justice,” Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the 15-member Council.

Black box deal

Western powers today ratcheted up the pressure on Moscow over the Malaysian plane disaster, as a train loaded with some 280 bodies was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held station four days after the jet crashed in strife-torn east Ukraine.

US President Barack Obama insisted that Moscow force pro-Russian insurgents controlling parts of east Ukraine to cooperate with an international probe into the disaster, and said chaos at the impact site was an “insult” to families of the victims.

With global fury mounting over the limited access given to investigators in the aftermath of the crash, the insurgents blamed for hampering the probe struck a breakthrough deal with Malaysia to hand over two black boxes recovered from the plane wreckage.

Moscow, which has drawn ire for failing to rein in the pro-Russian rebels, meanwhile hit back at US accusations that it supplied the weapons allegedly used to shoot down the airliner.

On the ground, the animosity between Ukraine’s warring sides was underlined by intense shelling which erupted in the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, a city just 60 kilometres (about 40 miles) from the station where the bodies had been held in refrigerated wagons.

Five people were killed and 12 wounded, as Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko said he was ordering his troops to hold fire within a 40-kilometre radius around the crash site, where forensic experts were heading.

Ukraine Plane A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of MH17 yesterday. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Russian riposte

Putin had appeared to adopt a conciliatory tone yesterday, saying Moscow would do “everything in its power” to resolve the three-month-old Ukrainian conflict.

But today, Moscow moved to slap down US accusations that the missile system used to shoot down the aircraft was transferred from Russia to separatists.

A senior Russian defence ministry official insisted that “Russia did not give the rebels Buk missile systems or any other kinds of weapons or military hardware”.

Moscow challenged Kiev instead, saying records showed a Ukrainian military plane was flying just three to five kilometres from the Boeing 777 before it crashed on Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.

“With what aim was a military plane flying along a civilian aviation route practically at the same time and at the same flight level as a passenger liner?” asked Lieutenant-General Andrei Kartopolov.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko swiftly dismissed that claim, calling it an “irresponsible and false statement” by Russia.

Russia’s riposte came after Kiev released fresh recordings of what it says are intercepted conversations between rebels conspiring to hide the flight’s black boxes from international monitors.

Ukraine PlaneDeputy head of the OSCE mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug, right, speaks to a member of the Dutch forensic investigations team as the train loaded with passengers’s remains departs the station in Torez today.Source: AP/Press Association Images

Crash site chaos ‘insult’

Earlier at the Torez railway station, Dutch investigators wearing masks and headlights were finally allowed to examine the remains of over 200 recovered bodies.

As they opened each of the train wagons holding the remains, an overpowering stench filled the air.

Patience was wearing thin over the limited access to the crash site in Grabove, but Malaysia’s premier said late today rebels have now agreed to give investigators freedom to examine the scene.

Najib added that six members of his team would accompany the train carrying the victims’ remains to the government-held east Ukrainian city of Kharkiv where they would be handed over to the Dutch, who have been asked by Kiev to lead the probe.

Obama denounced the chaotic removal of bodies by rebels as “an insult to those who have lost loved ones” while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott called it an “absolutely shambolic situation”.

As grief turned to anger, the public prosecutor’s office in the Netherlands said it had opened a criminal probe into the downing of the plane, which had 193 Dutch on board.

The outrage was palpable in an open letter from Dutch national Hans de Borst, who lost his 17-year-old daughter Elsemiek.

“Thank you very much Mr Putin, separatist leaders or the Ukrainian government, for murdering my dear and only child,” he wrote in the letter published by Dutch media.

“I hope that you’re proud to have destroyed her young life and that you can look yourself in the mirror.”

After meeting bereaved families, an emotional Dutch King Willem-Alexander said the disaster has left “a deep wound in our society”.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Australia hits out at “shambolic” MH17 response >

Read: Book of condolence opened in Dublin for Malaysia Airlines flight victims >

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