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.

'Gruesome'

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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Comments page of 4
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by: Lee from: USA
July 20, 2014 5:17 PM
It doesn't matter who fired the missile. A civilian aircraft was routed into a combat zone filled with advanced SAM systems. Already a number of military planes had been shot down.
In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 20, 2014 11:59 PM
That is 100% correct GKoh! Good point indeed! If Russia obeyed the arms treaties, that THEY agreed to, then they would have never given high-altitude anti-aircraft weaponry to begin with! That is an act of war, to the entire international aviation community!!! Putin never warned any nation of such missile systems being given to the rebels. Russia is permitted by international law to supply and arm any group with low-level weaponry, as did the US with the Syrian rebels. These pro-Russina seperatists are not bound by international laws and treaties concerning the proper use of high-level anti-aircraft systems. Putin clearly violate the laws that he not anly agreed to, but his own lawyers help to write them as well, in order to deter the US from arming bordering nations next to Russia with the same type of weaponry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
In Response

by: GKoh from: Canada
July 20, 2014 9:38 PM
It absolutely does matter who fired the missile; hence the need for an immediate cease-fire and independent/international investigation w/ unfettered-access to the area, ASAP.

This of course is separate from the issue to immediately release the remains of passengers to Ukr govt and allow Ukr recovery teams safe access to the area..

But the reason why it matters is because if it was indeed a rogue Ru-merc unit which operated an advanced SAM system, e.g., or a pro-separatist/pro-Kremlin extremist unit employing smuggled/sold Soviet equipment from Rogue Ru Air-defense commanders, etc, then such revelations absolutely needs to be factored in when applying maximal pressure on Kremlin to increase efforts for 'rebel' cease-fire and to contain further 'smuggling/delivery' of advanced/heavy weapons and fighters/mercs cross-border.

And btw, (as crazy as it sounds) reportedly many airliners have flown a similar route over eastern-Ukraine, being the most fuel-efficient track when heading from western-Europe to South-East Asia. Up until now at least, extremist-separatist forces have not been thought to have been equipped with medium-altitude/medium-range radar-guided SAM systems. Only shoulder-fired SAM systems smuggled in from Ru side, e.g.. Airliners had thus been considered 'safe' while flying at 10,000m altitude. (as opposed to Ukrainian aviation lost at lower altitudes to shoulder-fired SAM).

by: Lee from: USA
July 20, 2014 5:13 PM
Don't believe a word from Obama regime without proof. They have a history of using agencies like IRS for political purposes.

by: Umer Samo
July 20, 2014 4:14 PM
The armies of the Free world should join together secure the sacred grounds of MH17 - and from there march onward, towards the kremlin - Putin lair to end his reign on evil. Yes we can.

by: robertsgt40 from: Texas
July 20, 2014 4:09 PM
Need to find out why Kiev air traffic control had MH airliner change course and drop altitude from 35k to 32k ft. Also find out why all air traffic recordings were confiscated by Kiev. I'm sure there's a good reason.

by: Fase from: Poland
July 20, 2014 4:05 PM
Russia is preparing provocation against Ukraine-one of scenario is shelling missiles from Ukraine's territory into Russia with many victims. Russia is ready to kill everyone to make incursion in Ukraine true.

by: Tom from: ohio
July 20, 2014 4:05 PM
Any air line flying over war zone
Is stupid and the airlines should be held responsible for the down air craft.

by: Mr nobody from: usa
July 20, 2014 4:00 PM
Dirar Abu Sis, Viktor Bout...

Ukrainian?

Extradited?

For... terrorism? Selling MANPADS to FARC, manufacturing Qassam rockets?

What is it Allabout?

Extradition... there is one country that will not extradite Andrey Konstantinovich Lugovoy, Viktor Yanukovich, Edward Snowden, and the finger on the trigger of the last one...

The USA pays a high price for freedom, and I appreciate those who sacrifice for it.

by: Lou from: Atlanta
July 20, 2014 3:41 PM
I bet the thugs plan to ransom off the bodies/ body parts to the victims families.

by: Raul Maestri from: Miami, FL
July 20, 2014 3:17 PM
....ultimately, no one will be held responsible and the world will go on. While diplomats and heads of state outwardly express their anger, behind closed doors the pragmatists know that nothing will come of it and the status quo will continue. Nobody wants to be the lightning rod for this issue.

by: Bill from: flagstaff
July 20, 2014 2:24 PM
UNBELIEVABLE! To think that 'rebels' are in care of the human remains is infuriating!
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