News / Europe

Most Bodies Recovered from Downed MH17

  • Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe inspect a refrigerator wagon, which according to employees and local residents contains bodies of passengers of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane, at a railway station in the town of Torez, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.
  • Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.
  • A rescue worker shows a flight data recorder to a colleague at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Hrabove July 18, 2014 in this still image taken from video. Rescue workers have recovered a "black box" flight recorder from the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner.
  • Churchgoers together with bishop Jan Hendriks (L) light some 298 candles, representing the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane, before a mass in the Saint Bavo cathedral in Haarlem, the Netherlands, July 20, 2014.
  • From right: New South Wales Governor Marie Bashir, Margie Abbott, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Lady Lynne Cosgrove and Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove attend a mass at St. Mary's Cathedral commemorating victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Sydney, Australia, July 20, 2014.
  • Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry work at a crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, July 20, 2014.
  • A delegate of the 20th International AIDS Conference ties a red ribbon to a memorial board as a tribute to colleagues killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2014.
  • Delegates observe a minute's silence during the opening session, as a tribute to colleagues killed in the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, July 20, 2014.
  • Malaysians pray during a special prayer for the victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Malaysia, July 20, 2014.
  • Emergency workers carry the body of a victim at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • A local resident stands near flowers and mementos placed at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the settlement of Rozspyne in the Donetsk region, July 19, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian fighters walk on a road with victims' bodies lying in bags by the side at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
  • Emergency workers carry the body of a victim at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
VOA News

The Ukrainian government says 219 bodies have been recovered from the site where a Malaysian airliner crashed after being shot down on Thursday, as well as what they believe are parts of 28 additional bodies.  That would leave 51 of the people on the plane still unaccounted for. 

Also, a European delegation was given access to the bodies and the crash site in a rebel-held area of eastern Ukraine.

There are still conflicting reports over whether pro-Russian rebels or Ukrainian officials have control over the collected remains. According to some sources, rebels took possession of many of them following their collection by personnel from Ukraine’s Emergencies Ministry, who were granted access to the site by the separatists.

According to some reports, many of the bodies are currently in three refrigerated railway cars in the town of Torez, not far from the crash site. Quoting a senior official of the authorities in Kyiv, Ukrainian media are reporting that negotiations are currently underway to have the bodies transported to territory under Ukrainian government control, possibly to the city of Kharkiv.


It is a gruesome and sad scene in a Ukrainian farm field, said Michael Bociurkiw of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who spoke to reporters in Kyiv via mobile phone.
"We are looking right now at engine parts and parts of the fuselage.  It appears to me that this could be the main section, the mid-section, of the aircraft.  And we are also seeing emergency workers picking over a very difficult patch of impact, where there is a lot of debris and body parts and banged up bodies put together.”

Earlier, Bociurkiw and his 21-member team had been allowed to see several refrigerated railroad cars parked at a rural train station. He reported that he saw many body bags in the rail cars, but his team could not make its own count.
“Because of the conditions of the train, you need professional protective equipment to go in there. The stench was absolutely overwhelming. I do not want to be too gruesome, but it is a very, very, very difficult scene to watch.”  

The OSCE officials are not disaster investigators. They are in rebel-held eastern Ukraine on a human rights mission. But they are the only independent observers in the region, and he said they are trying to document what they can about the disaster.

Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Borodai said the bodies recovered from the crash site would remain in refrigerated train cars in the rebel-held town of Torez, 15 kilometers from the site, until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.

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

Borodai also said Sunday the insurgents are holding the flight data recorders with key information from the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet.

He said the so-called black boxes will be handed over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Kerry: Russian involvement clear

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday demanded Russia take responsibility for actions of allied separatists suspected of shooting down the passenger plane and expressed disgust over the rebels' "grotesque" mishandling of victims' bodies at the crash site.

While stopping short of placing direct blame on Moscow for the shootdown, Kerry articulated the most pointed and detailed U.S. accusations so far that Russia provided pro-Moscow insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.

Kerry said the United States intercepted conversations about the transfer to separatists of the Russian radar-guided SA-11 missile system it blames for the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

"It's pretty clear that this is a system that was transferred from Russia,'' Kerry said in an interview on CNN.

U.S. officials said American intelligence reports indicated Russia had moved multiple SA-11 antiaircraft systems over the border with other military equipment.

"There's [an] enormous amount of evidence, even more evidence [than] I just documented, that points to the involvement of Russia in providing these systems, training the people on them,'' Kerry said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Moscow denies involvement and has accused the Ukrainian military in the shootdown that killed 298 people.

Dutch anger

Worshippers at church services across the Netherlands on Sunday prayed for the victims of the Ukraine air disaster and their next of kin, as anger built over the separatist rebels' hindering of the investigation into the downed flight.

Amid the grieving, Prime Minister Mark Rutte is pushing for Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence over the rebels in eastern Ukraine to ensure a full investigation into the tragedy that killed 298 passengers and crew, including 193 Dutch citizens.

Rutte called Putin Saturday and had what he described as "an extremely intense telephone conversation" with the Russian president in which he urged him to exert his influence over the rebels and ensure there is a thorough, independent international investigation.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile Thursday at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 10,000 meters above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny shooting down the plane.

International concern

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sunday the crash site is "absolutely chaotic."

"I summoned the Russian trade minister to a meeting and I made crystal clear my concerns and dissatisfaction with the way this has been handled. Russian-controlled territory, Russian-backed rebels, quite likely a Russian-supplied weapon - Russia can't wash its hands of this," he said.

Abbot said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that he fears tampering with the evidence will continue because there is "no one in authority on the ground."  

"My fear is that Russia will say the right thing, but that on the ground interference with the site, interference with investigators, interference with the dignified treatment of the bodies will continue. That's my fear," he said.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said reports that bodies and debris have been removed from the unsecured site and that evidence has been tampered with is "an affront to all those who lost loved ones and to the dignity the victims deserve."

Psaki said the European monitors had access to the crash site Saturday for less than three hours and were allowed on the site for only 75 minutes on Friday.

Ukraine says it has "compelling evidence" pro-Russian rebels used a high-tech missile launcher, and with Russian training to shoot down the plane.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, writing in London's The Sunday Times newspaper, says if this is the case, it is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state and training and arming thuggish militias.

Cameron says too many European countries have been reluctant to face up to what is happening in eastern Ukraine. He writes that the West must change its approach to Russia and make Western power, influence and resources count.

France, Britain and Germany warned Russia Sunday it could face further economic sanctions if it does not force the rebels to allow investigators unfettered access to the crash site. The rebels so far have allowed only limited access for short periods of time.

European ministers should be ready to announce a fresh round of sanctions against Russia at a meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council, said a statement from Cameron's office, issued after calls with French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"They agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday," the statement said.

VOA's Al Pessin reported from Kyiv; other information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 4
by: Ryan from: USA
July 21, 2014 3:25 PM
Even though words can not change what has happened here. Say a prayer for those who lost their life or a loved one in this tragedy. I have been reading comments that are ridiculous to absurd. Forget the finger pointing and people trying to slander other countries and races of people. The fact is an aircraft that any person reading this could have been on was taken out by a careless group that has missile technology to hit a plane at over 32,000 feet but do not have enough sense to know what they are shooting at before pulling the trigger. We need to find the group that is behind this and let justice be served. I will pray that one day this world will realize that all people are equal and the only difference is the way we appear on the outside and that is just because of our body design to be efficient in our geographic locations. The only other difference is what you are taught to believe so don't think that you are that different from the next person because you are NOT! God Bless All

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
July 21, 2014 4:16 AM
Well ....Well..I see all European, Australian and North American commentators in this page have engaged only finger pointing, blaming to each other. But no one expressed sympathy and condolences to Malaysian families and airlines who lost loved ones in this tragedy.
The world treated Malaysian as if they do not exist, no one bothered to listen what Malaysians are saying about this horrific incident. Canada who lost only one citizen of their own and the government's statement made headlines around the globe.
Malaysians were denied to collect their dead bodies and the wreckage of the their aircraft.
This is Western's modern way of treating non-white people.
In Response

by: Ryan from: USA
July 21, 2014 3:38 PM
Don't make this tragedy about race. Any normal human has sympathy for the loss of innocent human life regardless of their race.

by: Canadian from: Oshawa
July 21, 2014 3:02 AM
In the context of another 295 innocents killed by the vicious war, I demand that the Poroshenko and his pederast helpers Avakov and Lashko, his underdeveloped warrior Parubiy, immediately stop killing much more numerous innocent civilians in Donbass - RIGHT NOW. 7000 innocent people have already been killed.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 21, 2014 4:12 AM
Yeah....right....wait....what???? Are you blaming this on Ukraine? Not sure what direction you are going with this comment. Yes, war is ridiculous, more innocents die than combatants, but not sure about your comment.

by: Igor from: Russia
July 20, 2014 11:50 PM
I do not think the question who fired the missile and where the missile came from is really important. There a large amount of US made weapons in Syria which is being used by the extremists and terrorists and they have killed thousands of innocent civilians, not just 300 passengers. Or do you really think the lives of such 300 passengers are much more valuable than those of the civilians killed by terrorists in Syria and Iraq? The USA must have been blamed for secretly providing rebels in Syria with their weapons.
As in Ukraine, Kiev must bear full responsible for the death of nearly 300 passengers because Kiev has tuurned a peaceful region into a dangerous war zone where they use heavy and mass destruction weapons to massacre its own people. Kiev have done nothing to negotiate with rebel leaders in the real meaning. As a matter of fact the rebels must find some kind of weapons to defend themselves against Kiev Air force and tanks, artillery...
In Response

by: Anonymous
July 21, 2014 8:41 AM
It is the Russia which regressed a sovereign state and make the people who lived there trapped into the war.Do you think the rebels are Ukraine?Most of them are Russia.

by: Chen Fang from: 3rd Planet from SUN-Earth
July 20, 2014 10:02 PM
The days are fast approaching, the days of Jacob’s Trouble. That they fell asleep before their own eyes while the Sun still shone in the blue sky. Then, come the Judgement. Look not after one’s own shadow. There will be a day other than any days in the past. A prelude of the Turbulance time ahead.

by: Kou ke
July 20, 2014 8:32 PM
Shot down civilian air plane by Russia that's mean Russia show it power direct to the West. It said Putin can kill all innocents like that.

by: derrick from: buea
July 20, 2014 5:36 PM
I think all eyes should be focus to russia. Only them can do things like that.
In Response

by: fggff from: dfgdfg
July 20, 2014 9:23 PM
Ya for sure check USS liberty u little puppet

by: Kenneth W. from: USA
July 20, 2014 5:27 PM
The key is the Russian rebels did not mean to shoot down a civilian airline. It wasn't a mistake. However that in no way excuses them as it is much like a gang member doing a drive by and shooting innocent children along the way. If indeed the rebels did shoot down the plane, which is most likely, Russia does definitely hold some responsibility as they are responsible by giving them the weapon. Oh and seeing other countries do the same thing is misdirection. You don't condone bad behavior by pointing to other bad behavior.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 11:44 PM
That would be totally incorrect! The arms treaties, that Russia also agreed to, are congruent to the non-Aggression pacts, again, that Russia also agreed to. Russia has already violated the non-Aggression pact. The pact that Bush Sr help to establish to protect the transition of Soviet Union to Russia. Russia already violated the arms treaty by arming these rebels with high-altitude missiles, a direct violation.

Countries of the arms treaties are allowed to supply, train, and equip rebel factions. No one is calling foul for that. If we had given the Syrian rebels high-altitude anti-aircraft systems, then we too would be the blame for civilian aircraft being shot down by them. It's common sense, when you know what you are talking about. I personally don't think any nation should have the right to arm anyone outside of it's own territories, but this is something that all the major powers in the world have agreed to. Russia did what was legally right to arm and supply the seperatists, with low-level weaponry. But this missile technology should have never beeen given to groups who are not beholdened to international treatises or pacts. Russia is solely to blame for this, and YES, we all should be crying FOUL!!!! Even the Russian citizens too! Putin was required, by international law, to inform all nations that these rebels had the ability to shoot down anything that crosses their airspace. Malaysian airlines is not the only airliner to have flown over Ukraine before they were shot down.

As far as the stupid flag theory is concerned, the Malaysian flag is copied from the American flag, without the stars. Pro-Putin people are trying to say the Ukraine mistakened the flag to be Russian, so Ukraine shot it down. Russia's flag is identical to France's flag!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In other words, if Ukraine had seen the flag on the airplane, they would have thought it was an American plane...................not RUSSIAN!!!!

by: Lee from: USA
July 20, 2014 5:21 PM
Obama is using thus tragedy to further his personal war on average Americans. He used this to implement a new gun ban in the name of sanctions against Russia.

by: Ifeanyi
July 20, 2014 5:18 PM
why some people talk bad of America. America is God created police and savior of the world.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 11:53 PM
Yep, and Obama is driving the police car, chasing the criminals! hehe

But he is obeying all traffic signs, not exceeding the limits, and being courteous to pedestrians.

Meanwhile, the criminals are disobeying the traffic signs, speeding way beyond the limits, and running over any pedestrian that gets in their way!!!!!

Hurray for Obama, we all feel safe!
Comments page of 4

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