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MH17 bodies leave Ukraine rebel area and reach Kharkiv

Posted on 22nd July 2014 at 15:37pm

A train carrying the remains of victims of the Malaysian airliner which crashed in Ukraine has arrived in the city of Kharkiv, outside rebel territory.

Flight MH17 crashed in an area held by pro-Russia rebels last Thursday, killing all 298 people on board.

Meanwhile, international monitors say parts of the wreckage have been changed and cut into since they first saw them.

Western nations say there is growing evidence the rebels shot down the plane using a missile supplied by Russia.

Russia has suggested Ukrainian government forces are to blame.

Hope for clues

Most of those who died in the crash of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 were Dutch, and the first remains are due to be flown from Kharkiv to the Dutch city of Eindhoven on Wednesday.

From there, they will go to a facility in the Dutch city of Hilversum for identification - a process which could take months, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.

The bodies will be kept in refrigerated rail carriages in Kharkiv while they are being prepared for transport, a spokeswoman for the Dutch forensics team has said.

Countries directly affected by the disaster, such as the Netherlands, Australia, and the UK, have been concerned that the crash site was not properly sealed off, with the risk that valuable evidence could be put at risk.

The plane's "black box" flight recorders, which were handed over by rebels to Malaysian officials, will be flown to a laboratory in the UK for analysis, British Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed.

Investigators hope the devices, described as being in good condition, will provide clues about what happened to the plane.

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been examining the wreckage.

They found that major pieces of the plane had been cut into - possibly to remove bodies - and that large parts now looked different, a spokesman told the BBC.

New Russia sanctions

European Union foreign ministers have announced they will impose more sanctions against Russia over its alleged backing for the rebels - something Moscow denies.

Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said the list of individuals and groups covered by EU sanctions would be broadened and a new list drawn up by EU ambassadors by Thursday at the latest.

Ministers will also ask the European Commission to increase punitive measures against Russia in the defence and financial sectors.

Both the EU and the US imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Crimea in March and the outbreak of hostilities in eastern Ukraine.

Speaking at a meeting of his security council on Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would do "all we can" to exercise influence over the rebels.

But at the same time, he urged the West to put pressure on the Ukrainian government to end the conflict.

"There is a need to call upon the authorities in Kiev to abide by elementary norms of decency, to introduce a ceasefire, at least for a short time for the investigation to go on," he said.

The conflict between Ukrainian government forces and rebels has continued, with reports of fighting round Donetsk and Luhansk.

On Twitter, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the army had captured the strategically important town of Severodonetsk, located some 140km (87 miles) from the key rebel stronghold of Donetsk.

Parliament has also approved the call-up of more military reserves and men under 50.

The separatist leader in Luhansk, Valery Bolotov, has ordered a counter-offensive in response to the string of advances by the Ukrainian army.

He said he was taking action in part because of the "critical humanitarian situation in Luhansk caused by its blockade".

Thirteen Ukrainian soldiers were killed over the past 24 hours, a Ukrainian security official said. Three of them died as a bus packed with explosives blew up at a roadblock.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

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Reproduced under licence from BBC News © 2014 BBC

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