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Ukraine workers say 21 bodies found at crash site



By DMITRY LOVETSKY and LAURA MILLS

HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) - Another 21 bodies have been found in the sprawling fields of east Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed last week, killing all 298 people aboard.

Local rescue workers had piled 21 black body bags by the side of the road in Hrabove early Monday. It was unclear how quickly they would be transported to refrigerated railcars in the nearby town of Torez, where the other bodies are being held.

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On Sunday night, Ukraine's emergency services agency said the total number of bodies found was 251. International indignation over the incident has grown as investigators still only have limited access to the crash site and it remains unclear when and where the victims' bodies will be transported.

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 that the site was being tampered with.

The pressure has been growing on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who the U.S. and others say has backed and armed the rebels, to rein in the insurgents in Ukraine and allow a full-scale investigation.

Putin lashed out against those criticisms on Monday, accusing others of exploiting the crash in east Ukraine 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 also again criticized the Ukraine authorities in Kiev for reigniting the fighting with the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site.

"We can say with confidence that 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."

That statement came in the wake of comments by the United States on Sunday, presenting what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile.

"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.'

The leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Australia also spoke to Putin by phone late Sunday. European foreign ministers are also meeting in Brussels Tuesday to consider further sanctions on Russia.

In an opinion piece for the Sunday Times, British Prime Minister David Cameron said there was a "growing weight of evidence" suggesting that the rebels shot down the plane.

If that was the case, Cameron said that was "a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them."

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country lost 28 citizens in the tragedy, said Putin "said all the right things" during their telephone conversation about ensuring an international investigation into the disaster.

"I'm now going to try to ensure that as far as Australia humanly can, we insist upon these things happening," Abbott told Sydney Radio 2GB on Monday. "The site is being treated more like a garden cleanup than a forensic investigation, and this is completely unacceptable."

The 109-square-kilometer (42-square-mile) 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. On Monday morning, four rebels armed with automatic weapons were standing guard around the cars.

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" and that a Dutch military plane was being sent to Kharkiv to set up a coordination center. On Monday, three Dutch members with Holland's National Forensic Investigations Team arrived in Donetsk to join an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the OSCE, 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 there were clear indications 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."

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."

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Bob Wagner July 21 2014 at 5:58 AM

Rising death toll ? I guess others besides people on flight were killed ? If you know how many were on flight and common sense tells you there were no survivors .... How can the numbers rise .... Sensationalize the headline because this has already become a boring story .

Flag Reply +24 rate up
17 replies
vladswim July 21 2014 at 6:44 AM

How is the death toll rising when all aboard are considered dead. What the headline should have said is " more bodies are being found "

Flag Reply +24 rate up
7 replies
npaleorelic July 21 2014 at 7:26 AM

What a silly headline that the "Death Toll Rises'. This insinuates that after being struck with a missle and then falling 30,000 feet to the ground that there might be an expectation of survivors.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
3 replies
milfordjac July 21 2014 at 8:27 AM

Mr. Putin, if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, _ _ _ _. Do you think the whole world are idiots?

Flag Reply +16 rate up
8 replies
bert hall July 21 2014 at 7:22 AM

THE RUSSIAN PEOPLE LOOK FROM PHOTOS TO BE COMPASSIONATE FOR THE DEAD. I SAW A FLOWER AND CANDLE SHRINE AT THE SCENE. PRESIDENT OBAMA, JOHN KERRY AND THE AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA WANT US TO BELIEVE THE RUSSIANS ARE ALL EVIL PEOPLE. PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE EVIL ONE.!!!

Flag Reply +16 rate up
24 replies
Harold Summers July 21 2014 at 8:06 AM

And, again Obama does nothing. Putin decimated an area of Georgia until he got control of the oil pipeline. Obama rewarded him by cutting our military, the European Defense Shield, and weapons.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
19 replies
saortolani July 21 2014 at 7:50 AM

Thank Russia and the United States for all the fringe radicals that are armed with serious firepower.
Not only are both countries guilty of being irresponsible with their high tech weaponry,but they are also guilty of supplying those same high tech weapons to every unstable or radical country with the money to buy them. In some case, the US even gives those countries the money to buy the armaments in the form of military aid.
This policy has been ongoing for decades, and not one time has it even proved the smart or responsible thing to do.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
1 reply
Good Day Roland saortolani July 21 2014 at 10:18 AM

Assume some of what you say is true. What is to become of a world hell bent on self destruction only for the almighty dollar, or euro or ruble and the control over rich natural resources and the intense rush that power must bring to those inflated egotistical heads? These are these only reasons I can understand that causes this behavior. Everyone should remember: each citizen of the world will leave this world with the same amount of all of these that he/she entered this world - NONE. So why this manic push for control, secrecy and deceit? A world which can work in unison, exist with its differences and respect those differences and assist in protecting the world from destruction at the hand of man (think global warming, atomic and nuclear attached and/or accidents) and forget about hate and religious differences will be a better place to raise our children.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
SusanS Good Day Roland July 21 2014 at 10:52 AM

Read the book of Revelation...last book of the bible....and you'll find out exactly what happens. This is a good time to turn our faith from the people of this world and place it in the hands of God.

Flag 0 rate up
BOB July 21 2014 at 7:53 AM

CUI BONO: Who will benefit?
The US, by its own admission, spent $5 billion to destabilized the government of Ukraine, and over throw its elected government. The US has done the same in many other countries. The US invades countries based on fabricated evidence like WMD. The US just absolutely loves humanitarian bombing: Afghanistan, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Lybia, etc.

The government of Ukraine can't seem to defeat the Donbass Militia. How convenient to have an incident to turn world opinion against Russia, and the militia. Since they can't make a case for a deliberate act they have now decided it was an accident.

CUI BONO ???

Flag Reply +12 rate up
8 replies
Scooby July 21 2014 at 9:27 AM

" He (Putin) also again criticized the Ukraine authorities in Kiev for reigniting the fighting with the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site."

So Putin is still siding with the rebels? I just don't see him cooperating to help do anything. Looks like he is still blaming the Ukrainians for what his thugs are doing.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
4 replies
bentbouy1 July 21 2014 at 7:48 AM

How can death toll rise? Everyone on plane killed and they surely know how many were on it?

Flag Reply +6 rate up
1 reply
gserlin bentbouy1 July 21 2014 at 10:03 AM

Conrock54: It does not mean anything of the sort. HP is not smart enough to even consider the possibility of anyone on the ground being killed, or injured. Besides, if anyone on the ground was killed, don't you think that this info would be available immediately after the event?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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