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Train with plane crash bodies leaves rebel town



BY DMITRY LOVETSKY AND DAVID MCHUGH HRABOVE

HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) -- A refrigerated train carrying Malaysia Airlines victims' bodies pulled away Monday from a rebel-held town in eastern Ukraine, one small step forward in easing the agony of their grieving families.

In an emotional inspection hours earlier, Dutch experts had called for a full forensic sweep of the Flight 17 crash site and told the armed separatists controlling the area that the train must be allowed to leave as soon as possible.

Four days after someone shot the Boeing 777 out of the sky, killing 298 people, pressure was growing on Russian President Vladimir Putin to rein in the insurgents and allow a full-scale investigation into the downing of the plane. The U.S., Ukraine and others say Moscow has armed the rebels, a charge Russia denies.

In Washington, President Barack Obama demanded that international investigators get full access to the crash site and accused the separatists of removing evidence and blocking investigators.

"What exactly are they trying to hide?" Obama asked, a day after the U.S. presented what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels had shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile.

At the U.N. in New York, the Security Council was voting later Monday on an Australia-proposed resolution demanding international access to the crash site and a cease-fire around the area. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his country would view a Russian veto of the resolution "very badly," adding that "no reasonable person" could object to its wording.

Fighting flared again between the separatists and government troops in the eastern rebel-held city of Donetsk, just 50 kilometers (30 miles) to the west of the crash site. City authorities said battles took place Monday near the town's airport. An AP reporter heard several explosions and saw smoke rising from that direction.

After the train with the bodies left the town of Torez, two military jets also flew overhead and black smoke was seen rising in the distance.

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

There is great concern in the Netherlands about the bodies, since 192 of the plane's 298 victims were Dutch and another was Dutch-American. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Monday that repatriating the bodies was his "No. 1 priority."

An Associated Press reporter saw the train with the bodies leaving Torez, a rebel-held town 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the plane crash site, and overheard rebels saying it was heading for the rebel-held town of Ilovaysk. The Ukrainian government later said the train was eventually heading to a crisis center in the government-controlled eastern city of Kharkiv.

In farm fields near the eastern village of Hrabove, Peter van Vliet, leader of the group from the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team visiting Ukraine, said seeing the crash site gave him goose bumps despite the heat. Workers recovered 21 more bodies from the site Monday, bringing the total to 272 bodies, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said.

The Dutch team - which specializes in victim recovery and identification - saw some victims' remains that had not yet been removed from the crash site. They also inspected piles of passenger luggage, suggesting that they be put in a container and shipped out.

At the Torez train station, the Dutch investigators stood for a moment with their heads bowed and their hands clasped before climbing aboard to inspect the train cars, surrounded by armed rebels.

AP journalists said the smell of decay was overwhelming at the Torez train station and many with the inspectors wore masks or pressed cloths to their faces on the sunny, 84 degree Fahrenheit (29 degrees Celsius) day. A Ukrainian train engineer told The Associated Press that a power outage had hit the rail cars' refrigeration system for several hours overnight.

In Kharkiv, another team of international experts arrived, including 23 Dutch, three Australians, two Germans, two Americans, and one person from the U.K.

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia's prime minister said the rebels agreed to hand over both black boxes from Flight 17 to Malaysian investigators in Ukraine later Monday.

The U.S. evidence that the rebels were involved in downing the plan included video of a rocket launcher, one surface-to-air missile missing, leaving 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.

"A buildup of extraordinary circumstantial evidence ... it's powerful here," said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. "Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists."

Putin lashed out against the criticism Monday, accusing others of exploiting the downing of the plane for "mercenary objectives."

Putin said Russia was doing everything possible to allow a team of experts from the International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency, to investigate the scene. He again criticized Ukrainian government authorities in Kiev, saying they had reignited the fighting with the rebels after a unilateral cease-fire expired without progress on peace talks.

"If fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened," Putin said. "Nobody should or does have a right to use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives."

The head of counterintelligence for Ukraine's SBU security service, Vitaliy Najda, has said the Buk missile launchers came from Russia and called on Russia to supply the names of the service personnel "who brought about the launch of the missile" so they could be questioned. He said the rebels could not have operated the sophisticated weapon without Russian help but did not provide specific evidence for his claim.

In Moscow, Russian officials offered evidence Monday to counter U.S. claims that the rebels were responsible for shooting down the jet. The Defense Ministry showed photos they said proved that Ukrainian surface-to-air systems were operating in the area before the crash - nine times alone on Thursday, the day the plane was brought down.

Russian officials also said they had evidence that 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, Andrei Kartopolov.

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

In the Netherlands, victims' families were being consoled Monday by the Dutch royals.

---

McHugh contributed from Kiev. AP staff writers Laura Mills and Nataliya Vasilyeva reported from Moscow and Mike Corder contributed from The Hague, Netherlands.


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rimit9 July 21 2014 at 1:12 PM

While Obama is demanding a world wide investigations, why can't he get his justice department to appoint a special prosecutor for the IRS scandal. This man is a absolute toothless tiger. What are you going to do about it Mr. President, oh, I see, you are going to look into it and do your usual nothing.

Flag Reply +33 rate up
23 replies
Jean Karpinski July 21 2014 at 1:01 PM

GOD BLESS ALL PEOPLE ON THE PLANE AND THERE FAMILYS

Flag Reply +33 rate up
7 replies
crotalus July 21 2014 at 1:00 PM

I'll bet the rebels will eventually want money to release the bodies. They will claim it is for the expenses involved in recovering them and sending them back to their home countries.

They will continue to deny they shot the aircraft down, and no investigators will be allowed to do their job until all incriminating evidence is removed by the rebels.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
6 replies
JOE July 21 2014 at 1:09 PM

Rebels my ass, the Rebels recruiting office is in Moscow, they are Russian, just like the guys in the Crimea, Russian Army.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
7 replies
juststeve35 July 21 2014 at 1:02 PM

Wherever it ends up, having them out of legitimate authority control for even as long as has already occurred means the Russian's are attempting to hide the truth.

Period.

There is NO other explanation.

Flag Reply +20 rate up
4 replies
Gina July 21 2014 at 1:40 PM

Every good nation should ban together, march in there and demand the bodies. They should do their own criminal studies and to hell with the idiot rebels!
These other countries need to stand up and grow a pair because these idiots are just going to keep walking right over everyone! United we stand! So STAND UP ALREADY PEOPLE!
America can't feed, rebuild and police the ENTIRE world alone! My gosh... Do we really have to do everything?

Flag Reply +17 rate up
8 replies
dmickeyde July 21 2014 at 1:05 PM

The world must pray for the poor souls and their family's peace of mind . I can't imagine what kind of human being could master mind this tradgedy and be able to function afterwards . The devil is alive and well .

Flag Reply +15 rate up
4 replies
dbn3 July 21 2014 at 1:22 PM

These Russian terrorists should be brought to there knees with sanctions and embargo's. This is the beginning of a new Nazi state.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
8 replies
robinwoolum238 July 21 2014 at 1:31 PM

Why would President Putin give to ***** about President Obama's sanctions or demands. Russia is not afraid of the United States because Obama and his crew has made America weak. As Americans we need to take back our Country and restore it to the greatest it once was.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
5 replies
ram4131 July 21 2014 at 2:10 PM

Allowing bodies to rot in the heat? Picking personal items off the corpses?
Freakin Russians are a disgrace.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
ZMAN ram4131 July 21 2014 at 2:27 PM

This would never happen here if a plane crashed in Chicago and the locals had access to the bodies - the only reason it would not is because we would secure the site. Otherwise you are dilusional

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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