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Ukraine

Ukraine To Give Control Of Airline Crash Probe To International Experts

Australian PM: Ukraine Crash Probe Resembles 'Garden Clean-Up'i
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July 21, 2014
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott voiced deep concern that Russian-backed rebels remained in control of the crash site of a Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine. During a news conference on July 21 in Canberra, Abbott said the site looked more like a "garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation. (Reuters)

WATCH: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott voiced deep concern that Russian-backed rebels remained in control of the crash site of a Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine. During a news conference on July 21 in Canberra, Abbott said the site looked more like a "garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation. (Reuters)

By RFE/RL

Ukraine says it will hand over control of an investigation into the Malaysian airliner crash to international experts and suggested the Netherlands should lead the process.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk also said in Kyiv on July 21 that Kyiv officials will allow "Western partners" to coordinate the probe into the plane's July 17 downing.

He said Ukraine was prepared to "transport all bodies to Amsterdam" for forensic tests.

Yatsenyuk said 272 bodies of the 298 passengers have been recovered from the crash site.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said reports from the group's investigators in Ukraine suggest some bodies were incinerated without a trace.

Dutch investigators arrived in eastern Ukraine on July 21 and are checking the refrigerated train cars with the bodies, near the town of Torez.

They are also expected to visit the crash site.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the Dutch team will help identify victims and that repatriating the bodies is his "No. 1 priority."

For his part, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said the crash site looked more like a "garden clean-up" than a forensic investigation.

Speaking to Australian media on July 21, Abbott said he had spoken by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

According to Abbott, Putin "said all the right things and now we need him to be as good as his word."

More than 30 Australian citizens and permanent residents were aboard the Malaysian airliner.

The Ukrainian government has set up facilities in the city of Kharkiv, which is under government control, for the passengers' bodies and plane debris to be brought for further investigation.

Some delegations of international experts are already in Kharkiv, where hotels and other facilities have been reserved for relatives of the victims.

Putin Blames Others For Crash

Putin, meanwhile, has criticized unnamed people he said are exploiting the downing of the Malaysia Airlines jet in eastern Ukraine.

Putin said in Moscow on July 21 that Russia was doing everything it can to allow international experts to investigate the scene of the crash.

But he again blamed the Ukrainian authorities for ending a unilateral cease-fire against pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

"We can say with confidence that if fighting in eastern Ukraine had not been renewed on June 28, this tragedy would not have happened," Putin said.

He added that nobody had a right to "use this tragedy for such mercenary objectives."

WATCH: Russian President Vladimir Putin said politicians should not use the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine to pursue "narrow, selfish political" goals.  

Putin Cautions Against Using Ukraine Plane Crash For Political Gaini
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July 21, 2014
Russian President Vladimir Putin said politicians should not use the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine to pursue "narrow, selfish political" goals. Putin said July 21 in Moscow that Russia is doing everything it can to allow international experts to investigate the scene of the crash that killed nearly 300 people. He also said if Ukrainian authorities hadn't resumed their offensive against pro-Russian rebels on June 28, the tragedy would not have happened. (Reuters)

Yatsenyuk said on July 21 that Ukraine was convinced the plane was shot down by a missile probably fired from a Buk-M1 missile system.

Yatsenyuk said he expected nothing from Russia and Putin should understand "it's enough already."

He said Moscow had armed and trained separatists to fight against Ukrainian soldiers.

"The Washington Post" reported that Vitaliy Nayda, Ukraine's counterintelligence chief, had photographs and related evidence showing three Buk M-1 missile systems moving from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine to Russia early on July 18, less than 12 hours after the plane came down.

But Russian state media and some officials have suggested that Ukraine staged the attack to blame the separatists and convince Western allies to give military aid to Ukraine.

Security Council To Meet

UN Security Council diplomats tweeted on July 20 that the council would vote on July 21 on a draft resolution co-sponsored by Australia, France, and Lithuania that would call for full access to the crash site and an independent investigation.

On July 20, pro-Moscow rebels piled nearly 200 bodies from the downed Malaysian jetliner into four refrigerated boxcars.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman said they would eventually be taken to a laboratory in Kharkiv, more than 250 kilometers north of the crash site and far from rebel-held territory.

According to the AP news agency, Ukraine's emergency services agency said the total number of bodies found was 251, with dozens of body parts.

Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said reports from the group's investigators in Ukraine suggest some bodies were incinerated without a trace.

More than three days after the jetliner crashed, international investigators still had only limited access to the sprawling fields where the plane fell.

Phone Calls With Putin

Leaders of Britain, France, and Germany spoke to Russian President Putin by phone late on July 20.

They urged the Russian leader to use his influence on the separatists to ensure the victims could be repatriated and international investigators could have full access to collect evidence.

Rebel leader Aleksander Borodai denied the rebels were trying to tamper with evidence.

He said the bodies would be turned over to a team of Malaysian experts he was expecting.

Borodai also said he would turn over the plane's flight data and cockpit voice recorders, or "black boxes," as well.

However, the AP news agency cited at least one case where the rebels had interfered with the investigation.

The agency quoted a worker at the morgue in the town of Torez, near the crash site as saying that shortly after the crash a local resident delivered to the morgue the bloodied body of a child killed in the crash.

He said rebels turned up at the morgue on July 19 and demanded the body be turned over.

"They began to question me: 'Where are the fragments of rocket? Where are the fragments from the plane?'" the morgue worker said. "But I didn't have any wreckage.... I swear."

The United States, meanwhile, presented what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile and training.

"Russia is supporting these separatists. Russia is arming these separatists. Russia is training these separatists," Secretary of State John Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and dpa

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