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Rebels release train with bodies from downed jet


By NICOLAS GARRIGA and NICOLAE DUMITRACHE
Associated Press

HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) -- Bowing to international pressure, pro-Moscow separatists released a train packed with bodies and handed over the black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane, four days after it plunged into rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

With body parts decaying in sweltering heat and signs that evidence at the crash site was mishandled, anger in Western capitals has mounted at the rebels and their allies in Moscow. Their reluctant cooperation will soothe mourning families and help investigators, but may do little to reconcile the East-West powers struggling over Ukraine's future.

Russia's Defense Ministry said Monday it saw no evidence a missile was fired and denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17 - and suggested the Ukrainian military was at fault. President Vladimir Putin spoke out but showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.

President Barack Obama accused the rebels of tampering with evidence and insulting victims' families, warning of new sanctions. Europeans will consider their own sanctions Tuesday.

Obama Asks What Russian Separatists Are Trying To Hide


The bodies of the 298 victims, most from the Netherlands, have become a part of the conflict in Ukraine because they could hold evidence of what brought the plane down on July 17 as it was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Grief turned to anger as families begged to get the bodies of their loved ones back, while the separatists held on to the remains.

"Bodies are just lying there for three days in the hot sun. There are people who have this on their conscience," said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died on their way to a vacation in Bali, in an interview with The Associated Press in the Netherlands. "When I am in my bed at night, I see my son lying on the ground. ... They have to come home, not only those two. Everybody has to come home."

International forensics experts finally gained access to the crash site Monday - an emotional experience for the head of the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team, Peter Van Vliet. Seeing the wreckage gave him goosebumps, he said.

The team stumbled across remains that had not yet been removed and inspected the perished passengers' luggage.

In Torez, a rebel-held town 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the crash site, inspectors bowed heads and clasped hands before climbing aboard refrigerated train cars holding the collected bodies. Armed rebels surrounded them, while commuters boarded other trains nearby.

The smell of decay was overwhelming. Workers wore masks, while passersby twisted their faces in horror at the odor. Temperatures hit 84 degrees F (29 degrees C), and a train engineer told the AP that a power outage had hit the refrigeration system temporarily overnight.

MH17 Latest: Rebels Hand Over Bodies, Black Boxes

The rebels in Torez did not appear too conciliatory as the tense day wore on. They repeatedly tried to block reporters from access to the visiting experts, growing more aggressive throughout.

Late Monday, trucks arrived at the Torez station with plastic bags apparently filled with body parts, as well as piles of luggage - suitcases, backpacks, a purse with a Louis Vuitton label.

Ukrainian authorities said the total number of bodies recovered was 282.

Dutch investigators demanded the separatists transfer the bodies immediately, and the rebels complied after several hours.

With a long whistle and puff of smoke, the train bearing the bodies pulled slowly out of the station. Rebels holding automatic rifles walked alongside as it chugged away, a cluster of children on bicycles looking on.

It was headed through troubled territory, its destination not 100 percent clear.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the train was heading for the rebel-held city of Donetsk, 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the crash site, and then on to Kharkiv, site of a crisis center controlled by the Ukrainian government. He said Ukrainian authorities have agreed to let the bodies be transferred from there to the Netherlands for identification, but gave no time frame.

Early Tuesday, the rebels handed over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Donetsk. A rebel leader, Alexander Borodai, said the orange-colored flight recorders were being handed over to Malaysian officials on the condition that they would be delivered to experts at the International Civil Aviation Organization.

"I can see that the black box is intact even though a little bit damaged, but in a good condition," said Col. Mohamad Sakri of the Malaysian National Security Council. He added that the number one priority was for the bodies of the victims to be delivered to Amsterdam.

Earlier, a team of international observers at the sprawling crash site described strange behavior by workers.

"When we were leaving, we observed workers there hacking into the fuselage with gas-powered equipment," OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told reporters in Donetsk.

He said there was no security perimeter Monday at one of the bigger debris fields, and monitors saw that one of the largest pieces of the plane "had somewhat been split or moved apart."

In Washington, Obama asked, "What exactly are they trying to hide?"

"This is an insult to those who have lost loved ones. This is the kind of behavior that has no place in the community of nations," he said.

On Sunday, the U.S. said there was "powerful" evidence that the rebels had shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile, including video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, being driven away from the likely launch site; imagery showing the firing; phone calls claiming credit for the missile strike and phone recordings said to reveal a cover-up at the crash site.

The Russian Defense Ministry offered its own evidence Monday, showing photos it said proved that Ukrainian surface-to-air systems were operating in the area before the crash - nine times alone the day the plane was brought down.

Russian officials also said they had evidence a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet had flown "between 3 to 5 kilometers (2 to 3 miles)" from the Malaysia Airlines jet.

"(The plane) is armed with air-to-air R-60 rockets, which can hit a target from a distance of up to 12 kilometers (7 miles) and guaranteed within 5 kilometers (3 miles)," said the chief of Russia's General staff, Lt. Gen. Andrei Kartopolov.

Defense Ministry officials insisted Russia had not given the rebels any surface-to-air missiles - and said they have no evidence that any missiles were launched at all. They asked the U.S. to share any satellite images of the launch.

Putin accused others of exploiting the downing of the plane for "mercenary objectives." He said Kiev authorities had reignited the fighting after a unilateral cease-fire expired without progress on peace talks.

At the U.N., the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding international access to the crash site and an end to military activities around the area, following intense pressure on a reluctant Russia to support the measure.

Fighting in eastern Ukraine began in mid-April after Russia annexed Ukraine's southern Crimean Peninsula a month earlier.

Battles erupted again Monday between the separatists and government troops in Donetsk, according to city authorities. An AP reporter heard several explosions and saw smoke rising from the direction of the city airport.

More from AOL.com:
Vital evidence feared withheld by Ukraine's rebels
Rebels agree to hand over black boxes to Malaysia

---

David McHugh in Kiev, Laura Mills and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Lucian Kim in Donetsk, Ukraine, Alexandra Olson at the United Nations and Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, contributed to this report.

Join the discussion

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pottshosp July 21 2014 at 9:09 PM

Hello: Putin is the strongest Russian leader since Stalin and Obama is our weakest president ever. As despicable is Putin, he's a leader Obama is not, Putin is rearming while Obama is disarming our military. Old Obama is like a deer caught in the headlights of Putin's tank. Obama came into office with distain to our military and he's keeping his promise.

Flag Reply +62 rate up
47 replies
castcutters July 21 2014 at 9:07 PM

I sure wish we had a President with some balls.

Flag Reply +58 rate up
30 replies
and.then.what July 22 2014 at 7:16 AM

President Barack Obama
accused the rebels of tampering
with evidence....!!!
TALK ABOUT --
"The pot calling the kettle black" ..!

The phrase
"The pot calling the kettle black"
is an idiom used to claim that a person is guilty of the very thing
of which they accuse another.

The list of Obama's tampering with evidence is too long to list.
So I'll just list one -- IRS....

Flag Reply +28 rate up
2 replies
vinkbear and.then.what July 22 2014 at 9:39 AM

Sort of like Issa presenting an altered e-mail, isn't it? Or selectively reading closed door testimony out of context so it looks like the witness is supporting Issa's allegations. Or refusing to let a witness speak because the witness won't testify in a way that follows the pre conceived narrative of the right?

Or going to war on faulty intelligence that the now former members of that administration still stand behind, even though the intel has been thoroughly discredited, while complaining about the current POTUS?

You mean like that?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
normandyv vinkbear July 22 2014 at 2:36 PM

God, what a boring conversation.

Flag 0 rate up
raverob and.then.what July 22 2014 at 4:08 PM

IRS ,Bengazi, what else . Wheres the proof .As usual none . Just what Hannity tells myou . 9 investagations of Bengazi has proofed nothing. So lets sue the President instead of constructine things .like jobs . Idiots all of them

Flag Reply 0 rate up
crystalblue.judy July 21 2014 at 9:05 PM

Why doesnt Obama ask the IRS what they are trying to hide? huh Mark.

Flag Reply +27 rate up
9 replies
musomesa July 21 2014 at 9:05 PM

Just been watching PM Cameron make a statement expressing condemnation of the shooting down of the plane followed by the Deputy Labor Leader standing up and expressing her agreement with the statement and adding suggestions on how to put pressure on Putin. Cameron then stands up and says her points are absolutely right.

It is so adult when politicians can simply say when they agree with the opposing side rather than disagree for the sake of disagreeing.

Flag Reply +25 rate up
pnut166 July 21 2014 at 11:08 PM

Hate to say it, but Romney (as much as I disliked him) forewarned of a reemerging Soviet threat at the debates. And Obama scoffed, waved his hand, and said things between the US & Russia were better than ever, and that Russia would NEVER do anything to harm that newfound "friendship" or be an aggressor again.

Flag Reply +24 rate up
7 replies
vobox3343 July 21 2014 at 9:38 PM

Thanks for putting on the pressure, Mr. President. Your diplomacy, coolness in demeanor. is why you're one of the best. No one has done it better. No one.

Flag Reply +24 rate up
16 replies
William July 21 2014 at 11:15 PM

And what does obama do????? We are going to slap your wrist and draw a red line in the soil.

Putin is laughing his ass off at this useless idiot and us as US citizens. The weakest president we have ever had. The world is in an upheaveal and we have an idiot at the helm. This is cause for a mutiney on a ship. And what do the liberals do, "we want gay marrages". Anyhting to disrupt the continuity of the constitution and the might of once was the world power.

We had the power to stop all of this in 2008. But the liberals and morans selected an idiot. I am not in favor of any war. I am a cold war vet. But unfortunatly sometimes you have too. Since the fall of the USSR the world has been much more unstable. Clinton tried, and to a point he succseeded. Bush did and to POINT FAILED. bUT OBAMA HAS CONPLETELY FAILED TO KEEP THE WORLD IN CHECK AND OUR COUNTRY STABLE.

wE ARE ON THE VERGE OF ANOTHER CIVIL WAR. aND THIS ONE WILL NOT BE AS NICE AS THE LAST.

Flag Reply +18 rate up
12 replies
z4rock July 21 2014 at 10:06 PM

CRASH!!! THE PLANE WAS SHOT DOWN!!!!! That is like saying JFK wasn't shot he was in a car accident.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
cpruitt221 July 21 2014 at 9:23 PM

I wonder what you can do to a flight recorder to keep it from giving information.I am sure Putin knows since he was and is KGB.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
8 replies
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