Bodies of MH17 crash victims leave rebel territory

Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine on Tuesday allowed the bodies of passengers killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 to begin their journeys home as Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed to exert influence on the separatists amid mounting international pressure.

The separatists also turned over the flight data and voice recorders to Malaysian officials, thereby fulfilling two of the three agreements relating to the flight, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in Kuala Lumpur, five days after the crash killed 298 people.

The so-called black boxes appeared to be in good condition and a train carrying the remains of victims was allowed to travel to Kharkiv, outside rebel-held territory, he said.

Two-thirds of the passengers were Dutch, and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in The Hague that the first victims were expected to arrive in the Netherlands on Wednesday.

The only agreement the rebels have yet to fulfill if allowing full access to the crash site so an investigation could begin. The rebels have been accused of downing the jet with a Russian missile.

Putin called on the Ukraine government, which has been fighting separatists in regions bordering Russia since April, to implement a truce while experts examine the crash site.

“It is necessary to urge the Kiev authorities to observe the basic norms of decency and cease fire for any time to investigate the Boeing 777 tragedy,” he said in Moscow.

In turn, Mr. Putin said, his government would use its influence with the rebels to pave the way for a full inquiry into the crash.

“Russia will do its best to make the investigation full-fledged and transparent,” Mr. Putin said at the start a Security Council meeting.

How many bodies had been transported to Kharkiv was unclear with reports ranging from 196 to 251, Mr. Rutte said.

Meanwhile, the separatists handed over the two black boxes to a Malaysian team in rebel-held Donetsk.

They will brought to Britain for analysis, Prime Minister David Cameron said.

“We agreed Dutch request for air accident investigators at Farnborough to retrieve data from MH17 black boxes for international analysis,” he wrote on Twitter.

A Belgian military aircraft is on its way to Kiev to collect the devices, Belgium’s Defence Ministry said in a statement.

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Printable version | Feb 21, 2020 10:10:56 PM |

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