Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in rebel-held territory, a charge the rebels denied.
As dozens of victims’ bodies lay in bags by the side of the road baking in the summer heat, international monitors at the crash site Saturday said they were still being hampered by heavily armed rebels.
“Some of the body bags are open and the damage to the corpses is very, very bad. It is very difficult to look at,” OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told reporters in a phone call from the site, where the smell of decaying bodies was unmistakable.
He said the 24-member delegation was given further access Saturday to the crash site but their movements were being limited by the rebels. The site sprawls eight square miles (20 square kilometers) across sunflower and wheat fields between two villages in eastern Ukraine.
“We have to be very careful with our movements because of all the security,” Bociurkiw said. “We are unarmed civilians, so we are not in a position to argue with people with heavy arms.”
Flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was carrying 298 people from 13 nations when it was shot down Thursday in eastern Ukraine close to the Russian border, an area that has seen months of clashes between government troops and pro-Russia separatists.
At an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner likely was downed by an SA-11 missile and “we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel.”
The government in Kiev said militiamen have removed 38 bodies from the crash site and have taken them to the rebel-held city of Donetsk. It said the bodies were transported with the assistance of specialists with distinct Russian accents.
The rebels are also “seeking large transports to carry away plane fragments to Russia,” the Ukrainian government said Saturday.
In Donetsk, separatist leader Alexander Borodai denied that any bodies had been transferred or that the rebels had in any way interfered with the work of observers. He said he encouraged the involvement of the international community in assisting with the cleanup before the conditions of the bodies worsens significantly.
As emergency workers put some 80 bodies into bags Saturday, Bociurkiw stressed that his team was not at the site to conduct a full-scale investigation.
“We are looking at security on the perimeter of the crash site, looking at the status in the condition of the bodies, the status in the condition of the debris, and also personal belongings,” he said.
Ukraine also called on Moscow to …continued »