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Bodies from downed jet piled in boxcars in Ukraine

TOREZ, Ukraine (AP) - Pro-Moscow rebels piled nearly 200 bodies from the downed Malaysian jetliner into four refrigerated boxcars Sunday in eastern Ukraine, and cranes at the crash scene moved big chunks of the Boeing 777, drawing condemnation from Western leaders that the rebels were tampering with the site.

The United States, meanwhile, presented what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training. Although other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash, the U.S. was ahead of most in pointing blame on Moscow for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 people aboard.

"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists," Secretary of State John Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Under Rebel Control, Fate Of MH17 Bodies Unclear

Leaders of Britain, France and Germany spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Sunday, urging him to use his influence on the separatists to ensure the victims could be repatriated and international investigators could have full access to collect evidence. They said European foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels Tuesday to consider further sanctions on Russia.

More than three days after the jetliner crashed, international investigators still had only limited access to the sprawling fields where the plane fell.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a blistering opinion piece for the Sunday Times, said "the growing weight of evidence" suggests the rebels shot down the plane, and if that is so, "this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them."

The crash site, spread out on farmland and villages, looked dramatically different Sunday, a day after armed rebels had stood guard while dozens of bodies lay in the summer heat. The rebels were gone, and 192 bodies were loaded into the refrigerated train cars in the rebel-held town of Torez, 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.

The Ukrainian government said in a statement on its website that a second train with four refrigerator cars had arrived at Torez station.

Emergency workers, who the rebels have allowed to operate under their control, were searching the sprawling fields. Cranes moved pieces of the plane around, apparently to look for more bodies underneath.

By Sunday night, Ukraine's emergency services agency said the total number of bodies found was 251, with dozens of body parts.

Kerry expressed outrage at the "grotesque" behavior of the rebels at the crash scene.

"Drunken separatists are stacking bodies into the back of trucks, removing materials from the site," he told ABC's "This Week." ''On Friday, we had 75 minutes of access to the site; on Saturday, three hours of access. This is an insult to everybody.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost 192 citizens on the plane, told a news conference that repatriating the bodies was his "No. 1 priority."

He said all efforts were aimed at getting the train with the bodies to "territory controlled by Ukraine," adding that a Dutch military plane was being sent to Kharkiv to set up a coordination center.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said reports from the group's investigators in Ukraine suggest some bodies were incinerated without a trace.

"We're looking at the field where the engines have come down. This was the area which was exposed to the most intense heat. We do not see any bodies here. It appears that some have been vaporized," he said from the crash site.

Rebel leader Alexander Borodai denied the rebels were trying to tamper with evidence, saying the bodies would be turned over to a team of Malaysian experts he was expecting.

A group of investigators that included Malaysian officials was in Kiev, but said they wouldn't go into rebel-held areas until they get better assurances about security. The Ukrainian government, which has responsibility for the investigation, has also asked for help from the International Civil Aviation Organization - a U.N. body - and Eurocontrol, a European air traffic safety organization.

Borodai insisted the rebels have not interfered with the investigation, and said he would turn over the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, or "black boxes," as well.

"The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive," Borodai said in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

But it was clear that the rebels were interfering in the investigation.

Lyubov Kudryavets, a worker at the Torez morgue, said that on the evening the plane went down, a resident brought in the bloodied body of a child, about 7 or 8 years old. On Saturday, militiamen came to take away the body away, she said.

"They began to question me: 'Where are the fragments of rocket? Where are the fragments from the plane?'" Kudryavets said. "But I didn't have any wreckage. ... I swear."

Experts said that even if investigators are granted access now, it might be too late.

"Even without any deliberate attempt at a cover-up, the crash site is already compromised in forensic terms," said Keir Giles, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank. "A reconstruction of the aircraft fuselage and wings would give a picture on how the missile struck and what kind it was. If any aircraft parts have already been removed ... this compromises the objectivity of the investigation."

On the diplomatic front, Western leaders stepped up the pressure on Putin. The leaders of France, Germany and Britain issued a joint statement demanding that he force the separatists to "finally allow rescuers and investigators to have free and total access to the zone."

Rutte said the Dutch foreign minister was headed to the U.N. to lobby "to further expand the international coalition pushing for quick recovery of the bodies and getting to the bottom of the terrible events on MH17."

In the Netherlands, worshippers at church services prayed for the victims, as anger grew over the rebels' hindering of the investigation.

Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, were among those killed, said she was appalled their bodies weren't being handed over.

"Mr. Putin, send my children home," she said, speaking on Sky TV from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. "Send them home. Please."


Peter Leonard in Kiev; Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow; Nicholas Garriga in Hrabove, Ukraine; Lucian Kim in Kharkiv, Ukraine; Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Danica Kirka in London and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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markcz82 July 20 2014 at 2:51 PM

NOW no trade with russia from any and ALL world powers. see how long russia last then. SHUT THEM DOWN NOW !!!!

Flag Reply +99 rate up
29 replies
crotalus July 20 2014 at 2:46 PM

Is anyone surprised the Russian-supported rebels are carting away evidence? They're the ones who shot the airplane down, probably with Russian military assistance.

If the Ukranian government had shot the airplane down, Russia and their puppet rebels would be falling over themselves trying to cooperate to show the world they didn't do it.

The people destroying the evidence are ALWAYS the guilty party.

Flag Reply +86 rate up
16 replies
caroleozna July 20 2014 at 2:53 PM

It's time to STOP calling them "rebels" but instead identify them correctly. They are PAID RUSSION THUGS"
Carole Ozanian
Los Angeles, CA

Flag Reply +79 rate up
14 replies
Viper1ex19 July 20 2014 at 2:49 PM

I really don't believe Putin gives a ratzass about the idle threats coming from the clowns in the EU... or anyone else for that matter,,, especially Kerry,,, what a joke.

Flag Reply +69 rate up
20 replies
cmorgan6 July 20 2014 at 2:56 PM

Obama should call for an emergency NATO meeting to get NATO troops to this crash site to insure a proper investigation takes place. If the rebels do not give up the site they should be wiped out.

Flag Reply +51 rate up
39 replies
wnagle53 July 20 2014 at 2:35 PM

so what is going to satisfy you people?
Who is going to fight it ? Certainly not you. Obama? Kerry? Hillary?

Flag Reply +43 rate up
34 replies
diberville July 20 2014 at 3:13 PM

Putin should be behind bars!

Flag Reply +27 rate up
11 replies
bbnpl4545 July 20 2014 at 2:32 PM

AOL, How many times are you going to spin this story ? What a joke u are.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
8 replies
dawndee994 July 20 2014 at 2:31 PM

Such a farce US arms a lot of people too and here they're putting on an innocent and condemming act like it is something never done before.just trying to make themselves look superior and they aren't fooling anyone.

Flag Reply +20 rate up
13 replies
sirhalllaw July 20 2014 at 2:33 PM

Risk the ire of Europe. Oh my!! That comment made me laugh. Europe will not do a da** thing. They now have more groups to study and monitor than they do combat-ready divisions. While I don't necessarily disagree with the concept of study and peace, the Ukranian issue requires, as PM Cameron stated, a robust response. Mr. Putin knows the European impotence. For example, the Dutch have not been active participants in an armed conflict since Napolean. Not that that is bad. It just shows that their actual response is, and will be, limited. So I suggest that they quit talking because it really accomplishes nothing but embarrasment for the speaker. With that said, I ask an open question: What do folks think would be an appropriate response? Larry

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11 replies
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