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Monday 5 June 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Dmitry Lovetsky Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a plastic bag at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17
# mh17
Separatists hand over MH17 black boxes, but Australia says there is a "cover-up"
Malaysia Airlines also faced a backlash after one of its planes flew over war-torn Syria.

A TRAIN CARRYING the remains of 280 people killed in the Malaysian plane disaster was finally allowed to leave a rebel-held region in eastern Ukraine as the militants declared a truce Tuesday around the crash site.

Five days after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was allegedly shot out of the sky, pro-Russian separatists conceded to a furious international clamour for the bodies and the plane’s black boxes to be handed over to investigators.

The devices, which record cockpit activity and flight data, were handed to Malaysian officials by the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Alexander Borodai, in front of scores of journalists.

“We will order a ceasefire in an area of 10 kilometres around” the site of the disaster, which killed all 298 people on board the plane, he said.

Meanwhile, after days of bitter wrangling, the rebels released the bodies of the dead.

Loaded on a train, they will arrive in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv Tuesday before being put on a plane to the Netherlands, where the flight to Kuala Lumpur originated and which suffered the greatest loss, with 193 citizens killed in the crash.

The rebel concessions came after US President Barack Obama insisted that Moscow force the insurgents it is accused of backing to cooperate with an international probe into the disaster.

Moscow, which has drawn ire for failing to rein in the rebels, backed a UN Security Council resolution condemning the downing of the plane and demanding access to the crash site.

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”.

Ukraine Plane AP / Press Association Images A man covers his face with a rag due to the smell, as deputy head of the OSCE mission to Ukraine Alexander Hug, center right, stands outside a refrigerated train as members of Netherlands' National Forensic Investigations Team inspect bodies, seen in plastic bags, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Torez. AP / Press Association Images / Press Association Images


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that evidence had been tampered with on an industrial scale, calling it “a cover-up”.

Abbott, whose government was behind a UN Security Council resolution that yesterday unanimously demanded full access to the site in rebel-held east Ukraine, admitted progress had been made but said more needed to be done.

“There is still a long, long way to go,” he told a press conference of the quest to repatriate bodies and bring those responsible for the 298 deaths to justice.

“After the crime comes the cover-up,” he added.

“What we have seen is evidence tampering on an industrial scale. That has to stop.”

Ukraine Plane Dmitry Lovetsky A Malaysian investigator, left, takes a black box from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it is handed over by a Donetsk People's Republic official in the city of Donetsk. Dmitry Lovetsky


Meanwhile, embattled Malaysia Airlines faced fresh outrage as it confirmed one of its planes flew over war-torn Syria, just days after the MH17 disaster laid bare the risks civilian aircraft face in flying over war zones.

The Malaysian flag carrier confirmed that flight MH4, bound from London for Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, re-routed over Syria following the closure of the flight’s usual route over Ukraine in the wake of the MH17 tragedy three days earlier.

In a statement issued late last night, the crisis-hit airline said the Syrian flight path was among routes approved by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

“As per the notice to airmen (NOTAM) issued by the Syrian Civil Aviation Authority, the Syrian airspace was not subject to restrictions. At all times, MH004 was in airspace approved by ICAO,” it said.

But the move drew disbelief and scorn on social media.

“What is wrong with these guys?! Malaysians are now flying over Syria,” said one of many Twitter postings on the issue.

“Wanna lose another plane?” asked another.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Remains of MH17 victims to be handed over to Dutch authorities

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

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