News / Europe

Ukraine: MH17 Crash Victims’ Remains Being Processed

  • A guard rides on a train carrying the remains of victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17 downed over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine as it arrives in the city of Kharkiv, under Kyiv's control, July 22, 2014.
  • Police officers secure a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 as it arrives at a Kharkiv factory for a stop, July 22, 2014.
  • An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard as OSCE monitors and a team of Malaysian air crash investigators inspect the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near Hrabove, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
  • A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, July 22, 2014.
  • Two KLM cabin crew reach out into a sea of flowers at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, July 22, 2014.
  • Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a plastic bag at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 21, 2014.
  • Malaysian diplomats stand as Ukrainian President Petro Porosheko expresses his condolences outside the Malaysian Embassy in Kyiv, July 21, 2014.
  • A paramedic walks in charred debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • Toys and flowers are placed on the charred fuselage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • A girl holding a candle squats next to candles forming MH17 during an event to mourn the victims of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 20, 2014.
  • Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry gather the remains of victims at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, 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, eastern Ukraine, July 20, 2014.
  • A 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, eastern Ukraine, July 19, 2014.
Images from Ukraine
VOA News

U.S. intelligence officials say they have no evidence of direct Russian involvement in the shootdown of that Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine last week. They say ill-trained pro-Russian rebels likely downed the jetliner by mistake.

Officials briefed reporters on the July 17 disaster Tuesday in Washington, asking that their names not be used in connection with the preliminary findings. They said the passenger jet with 298 people on board was likely downed by separatists firing a Russian SA-11 surface-to-air missile.  There were no survivors.

The officials also said they do not know whether any Russians were present when the missile was launched.  But they said Moscow "created the conditions" that led to the shootdown.

In the past five days, the United States, Ukraine and a host of European governments have accused Moscow of supplying the missile battery that downed the plane.

Authorities also have accused separatists of moving that missile battery back into Russian territory after the shootdown.  

Earlier Tuesday, a train carrying bodies and flight data recorders collected from the crash site arrived in the government-controlled Ukraine city of Kharkiv.

Upon arrival, the head of an international team of forensic experts raised questions about the precise number of bodies recovered from the crash site near the Russian border.

Pro-Russian rebels accused of downing the plane said Monday that 282 bodies and the parts of 16 others were aboard the train.  But Dutch forensics team leader Jan Tuinder, who met the train in Kharkiv, said the refrigerated rail cars contained only 200 bodies.

The discrepancy had not been resolved by early Wednesday, and there was no immediate comment from rebels or the Kyiv government.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Tuesday to do everything in his power to influence separatists controlling the crash site to allow a full investigation into the disaster.  But he said such efforts would be inadequate without additional pressure on Kyiv to end the hostilities.

  (see full list of passengers here)

Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman confirmed that the bodies were aboard refrigerated rail cars that arrived in Kharkiv Tuesday morning.  He would not confirm earlier reports that there are also 87 body parts that officials believe come from the remaining 16 victims.

Groysman told a news conference in Kharkiv that Malaysian officials who accompanied the bodies from rebel-held territory have the aircraft’s flight recorders, and they are working with Dutch and international investigators to decide where their contents will be evaluated. 

International police agency Interpol said that, along with other expert teams, it started identifying some of the bodies. A fuller identification will be carried out in the Netherlands, the agency said.

Crash site access

Groysman also spoke about the next steps in the investigation.

“The most important issue for today is to get access to the crash site to do the professional work, and everything, according to the legislation of Ukraine, and under the guidance of authorized agencies,” said Groysman.

The White House Tuesday also emphasized the need for “immediate and full access'' to the crash site.

Welcoming news of the victim’s remain being transferred to the Netherlands, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. has not yet seen “the level of cooperation with international investigators that we'd like to see.''

Officials from many countries say evidence at the site has already been disturbed by large numbers of local villagers and untrained volunteers who were allowed to walk around it and remove items.  Ukraine accuses Russia and the separatists of destroying and manipulating evidence.

Ukraine gave up the international lead in the investigation on Monday, a move that apparently resolved the dispute that kept the bodies on the train near the crash site for two days.  The Netherlands now has the lead and is expected to perform the forensic identification of the bodies at a facility in Amsterdam.

Russia pledges cooperation

Also Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised in televised comments to do everything in his power to influence the pro-Russian separatists controlling the area to allow a full investigation into the downing of the airliner.  But he said such efforts would be inadequate without additional pressure on Kyiv to end the hostilities.

"Ultimately, there is a need to call on the authorities in Kyiv to respect basic norms of decency, and at least for a short time implement a cease-fire for the investigation,'' he said.

Putin has said repeatedly that the airliner would not have gone down if Ukraine had not re-ignited fighting last month in the region with separatists.

Ukraine ended a unilateral cease-fire June 30 saying it found itself under continued attacks by rebels, suffering substantial losses. The West has supported Ukraine's right to defend itself.

The Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was shot down last Thursday. Officials in Ukraine, the United States and the European Union say the plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile as it flew over eastern Ukraine. Kyiv says the plane was downed by separatists with a "Buk" missile provided to them by Russia, a claim widely supported in the West. Moscow, meanwhile, points its finger at Ukraine, saying that it spotted a Ukrainian fighter jet in the vicinity of the passenger plane before it was downed, a claim denied by Kyiv.

UN Security Council

The handover of the bodies and black boxes, and reports by international investigators of improved access to the wreckage of the airliner four days after it was shot down, occurred against calls for broader sanctions against Russia for its alleged instigation and support of the rebellion in Ukraine's east.

The U.N. Security Council on Monday unanimously condemned the airliner's downing and demanded that pro-Russian separatists controlling the crash site allow investigators unrestricted access to the area.

U.S. President Barack Obama, speaking from the White House Monday, said "the burden now is on Russia to insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full and unimpeded access to the crash site."

Netherlands Foreign Minister Frans Timmerman called the delay in granting access a "despicable" political game.

"To my dying day, I will not understand that it took so much time for the rescue workers to be allowed to do their difficult jobs, and that human remains should be used in a political game," he said. "... It is despicable."

More penalties for Russia considered

The U.S. is considering “additional costs” on Russia, the White House said Tuesday. Washington had imposed its latest round of sanctions last Wednesday, a day before the downing of MH17.

“Our willingness to consider adding additional costs is something that continues to be a live option,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters, adding that he U.S. also would welcome such steps from Europe.

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels Tuesday to discuss further penalties against Russia. For the first the time they raised the possibility of restricting Russia's access to European capital markets, defense and energy technology, but approval of such sanctions still faces hurdles as it requires broad consensus on the highest levels.

However, EU countries are expected to speed up implementation of sanctions against individuals, and possibly companies, agreed to in principle last week before the airliner's downing.

Britain’s new Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond said his country would want the “cronies” surrounding President Putin to bear the pressure of additional punitive measures.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius blamed "terrorists supplied by Moscow" for the airliner's destruction and the deaths of all 298 people aboard. He said he hoped the meeting would lead to beefed-up sanctions against Russia.

Linkevicius called for an arms embargo - a direct challenge to France, which is building two warships for the Russian navy. Amid protests, it has cleared one of the ships for delivery.

Several EU foreign ministers said Tuesday the bloc needs to consider an arms embargo against Russia following the downing of the plane.

VOA's Al Pessin contributed to this report from Kyiv. Some information was provided by Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press.

WATCH: Related video by Zlatica Hoke

Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxesi
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July 22, 2014 8:15 AM
After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.

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by: Mark from: Virginia
July 22, 2014 6:52 PM
You can talk and bash each other over your heads with all this rhetoric about who did what, and who is supplying who with arms, point fingers at all who lie and cheat and steal, etc....

When there are 289 people dead as a result, and there are 200+ families around the world who are mourning and grieving over lost loved ones from this tragedy. When the smoke clears (no pun intended) it will still be the families of those innocent victims who died on that aircraft who have to live with the burden of not having those loved one around. Smiles and tears that will no longer be seen on 289 faces, 289 lives that will no longer find physical fulfillment, 289 futures that will never be realized.
There are individuals to be blamed for this tragedy, and held responsible for the deaths of 289 innocent victims, the blood of 289 murdered people to be accounted for.
So, point your fingers, accuse whatever side you believe did this, it will not bring those 289 people back, it will not bring closure and an end of suffering and mourning to the families of those 289 innocent, murdered souls who did not want to die that day.
How quickly everyone forgets the victims when they are seeking blame and retribution on those responsible. If it was your child, your brother, your sister, your Mother, your Father who was lost on that flight......
Need I say any more...?


by: VTC from: Malay
July 22, 2014 10:55 AM
What an excuse is this? "Russian President Vladimir Putin, once again on Monday, said the airliner would not have gone down if Ukraine had not re-ignited fighting last month in the region with separatists."

If Russia and her terrorists murderers can distinguish the civilian plane from the military one, they should not have shot down it. It is a shame to all Russian people who bear the responsibility of downing the Malaysia plane and innocent people. Some people compared the situation with USA shooting down Iran plane in 1988, but the case is incomparable one because the nature of these two situation.


by: Jason from: Cambodia
July 22, 2014 9:36 AM
The world is getting worst and worst as we could see Issrael and Palestine conflict killed hundreds of civil people and soliders from both countries. Now Russian president Mr Puttin seems to feel sorry about the crash of plane shot down by pro-Russian separatists. International bodies should strengthen securi


by: VTA from: Vietnam
July 22, 2014 9:17 AM
I have ever called Putin as Bin Laden. Not enough for him, he is more dangerous than Bin Laden. Why do we hesitate to delete him? Not by killing him but let him stay in Russia only. All over the world stop communicating with Russia. Russian airplanes are not allowed to land on the areas out of Russia.


by: Michael Gray from: France
July 22, 2014 7:48 AM
It is now time to put Russia back behind the iron curtain. A total isolation of the country, it's people and all trade would rapidly result inthe downfall of the new Stalin who is of no great benefit to the Russian ppopulation.


by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 22, 2014 7:47 AM
Don't be so angry with Putin. If the US had a real leader, then Putin would have not even sent arms into Ukraine, nor annexed Crimea. Nor Bengazi, no Arab Spring, nor ISIL, nor Boko Haram, nor Hamas. The radical demons of the world are so thrilled to have someone like Obama running the free-world!!!!!! But hey, he likes to talk. And talk. And talk. But have you noticed that Obama seems to be getting tired. He's getting like a 200 year old Cpt Kirk (William Shatner style) with the pausing and hesitations.


by: John from: Florida
July 22, 2014 7:19 AM
Why were Ukrainian Jets following This aircraft When it was shot down? Putin And rebels Have nothing to gain By downed aircraft But it gives us gov Excuse for more sanctions Because they want to Control oil flow In Ukraine. Us spent 5 billion To destabilize Ukraine. U.S. is the liar.

In Response

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 22, 2014 8:48 PM
You tell them John!!! You the man! OK, .................Snowden has a spare room for you. Don't worry, Putin loves people like you, and you will fit into Russian society very well. Except you won't be able to speak your MIND THE WAY YOU CAN IN AMERICA!!! So pack your things and it's off to good old Russia for you!

Take care now.........bye bye then!


by: RgPope from: USA
July 22, 2014 5:46 AM
I cannot find adequate words to describe my disgust for Vladimir Putin, and his lies. The Russian people should be ashamed to have this thug as their president.

In Response

by: RgPope from: USA
July 23, 2014 3:53 AM
Oh, yes, Igor, we will see who shot down the airliner - but don't hold your breath waiting for the evidence that the US or Ukraine shot it down. You, Vladimir Putin, and a whole host of others, are in denial.
Oh, yes, we will see who shot down the airliner, and we will find out who supplied the equipment and expertise to operate it. Yes, indeed.

In Response

by: DaTruth from: USA
July 22, 2014 7:33 AM
Then you are sleep walking to your state sponsored media.

In Response

by: Serge from: SPb
July 22, 2014 7:07 AM
Look at yоur president, He lies about separatists shake down boeing and don't shame. And all americans look at his mouth and applaud him.

In Response

by: Dave
July 22, 2014 6:49 AM
Total lies upon lies - but what did we expect from the former head of the KGB? Truthfulness? Haha!

In Response

by: Igor from: Russia
July 22, 2014 6:40 AM
Everybody lies. But Russian aircraft do not bombed and killed people in Afgan, Iraq, Yugoslavia and so on.
And you should wait a little and you will see the truth. We all will see who hit the MH17


by: Roberto from: Italy
July 22, 2014 5:34 AM
Barack Obama, with the help of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, supplied the Anti-Kaddafi rebels with a number of U.S. built Stinger anti-aircraft missiles. Should one of these missiles eventually be used to shoot down a civilian airliner, would Obama hold Ms. Clinton and himself to the same standards he now reserves for President Putin?............. I doubt it.


by: 1worldnow from: Earth
July 22, 2014 5:27 AM
For all you pro-Russian, pro-seperatists, pro-Putin puppets...........now you will see how civilized people handle a tragedy.

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