TOREZ, Ukraine (AP) â€” Pro-Moscow rebels piled nearly 200 bodies from the downed Malaysian jetliner into four refrigerated boxcars Sunday in eastern Ukraine, & cranes at the crash scene moved huge chunks of the Boeing 777, drawing condemnation from Western leaders that the rebels were tampering with the site.
The United States, meanwhile, presented what it called "powerful" evidence that the rebels shot down the plane with a Russian surface-to-air missile & training. Although other governments have stopped short of accusing Russia of actually causing the crash, the U.S. was ahead of most in pointing blame on Moscow for the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 that killed all 298 people aboard.
"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."
p>Leaders of Britain, France, Germany & Australia spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone late Sunday, urging him to use his influence on the separatists to ensure the victims could be repatriated & international investigators could have full access to collect evidence. They said European foreign ministers will be meeting in Brussels Tuesday to consider further sanctions on Russia.
More than three days after the jetliner crashed, international investigators still had only limited access to the sprawling fields where the plane fell.
U.N. Security Council diplomats tweeted Sunday that the council would vote Monday afternoon on a draft resolution co-sponsored by Australia, France & Lithuania that would call for full access to the crash site & an independent investigation.
Recording May Show Attempt at Crash Cover-up
"Investigators must have immediate full access to MH17 crash site, & bodies treated with dignity," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant tweeted.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a blistering opinion piece for the Sunday Times, said "the growing weight of evidence" suggests the rebels shot down the plane, & if that is so, "this is a direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias & training & arming them."
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country lost 28 citizens in the tragedy, said Putin "said all the right things" during their telephone conversation approximately ensuring an international investigation into the disaster.
"I'm now going to try to ensure that as far as Australia humanly can, we insist upon these things happening," Abbott told Sydney Radio 2GB on Monday. "The site is being treated more like a garden clean-up than a forensic investigation, & this is completely unacceptable."
Russian officials have blamed Ukraine's government for creating the situation & atmosphere in which the plane was downed, yet has yet to directly address the allegations that the separatists were responsible or were operating with technical assistance from Moscow.
People walk next to a refrigerated train loaded with the bodies of victims, in Torez, eastern Ukrain …
The 109-square-kilometer (42-square-mile) crash site, spread out on farmland & villages, looked dramatically different Sunday, a day after armed rebels had stood guard while dozens of bodies lay in the summer heat. The rebels were gone, & 192 bodies were loaded into the refrigerated train cars in the rebel-held town of Torez, 15 kilometers (nine miles) away.
The Ukrainian government said in a statement on its website that a second train with four refrigerator cars had arrived at Torez station.
Emergency workers, who the rebels have allowed to operate under their control, were searching the sprawling fields. Cranes moved pieces of the plane around, apparently to look for more bodies underneath.
By Sunday night, Ukraine's emergency services agency said the total number of bodies found was 251, with dozens of body parts.
Kerry expressed outrage at the "grotesque" behavior of the rebels at the crash scene.
Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a bag as pro-Russian fighters stand in guar …
"Drunken separatists are stacking bodies into the back of trucks, removing materials from the site," he told ABC's "This Week." ''On Friday, we had 75 minutes of access to the site; on Saturday, three hours of access. This is an insult to everybody.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country lost 192 citizens on the plane, told a news conference that repatriating the bodies was his "No. 1 priority."
He said all efforts were aimed at getting the train with the bodies to "territory controlled by Ukraine," adding that a Dutch military plane was being sent to Kharkiv to set up a coordination center.
Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe, said reports from the group's investigators in Ukraine suggest some bodies were incinerated without a trace.
"We're looking at the field where the engines have come down. This was the area which was exposed to the most intense heat. We do not see any bodies here. It appears that some have been vaporized," he said from the crash site.
A piece of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 lies in the grass near the village of Hrabove, ea …
Rebel leader Alexander Borodai denied the rebels were trying to tamper with evidence, saying the bodies would be turned over to a team of Malaysian experts he was expecting.
A group of investigators that included Malaysian officials was in Kiev, yet said they wouldn't go into rebel-held areas until they obtain better assurances approximately security. The Ukrainian government, which has responsibility for the investigation, has moreover asked for assist from the International Civil Aviation Organization â€” a U.N. body â€” & Eurocontrol, a European air traffic safety organization.
Borodai insisted the rebels have not interfered with the investigation, & said he would turn over the plane's flight data & cockpit voice recorders, or "black boxes," as well.
"The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive," Borodai said in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
But it was clear that the rebels were interfering in the investigation.
A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabo …
Lyubov Kudryavets, a worker at the Torez morgue, said that on the evening the plane went down, a resident brought in the bloodied body of a child, approximately 7 or 8 years old. On Saturday, militiamen came to take away the body away, she said.
"They began to question me: 'Where are the fragments of rocket? Where are the fragments from the plane?'" Kudryavets said. "But I didn't have any wreckage. … I swear."
Experts said that even if investigators are granted access now, it might be too late.
"Even without any deliberate attempt at a cover-up, the crash site is already compromised in forensic terms," said Keir Giles, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think tank. "A reconstruction of the aircraft fuselage & wings would donate a picture on how the missile struck & what kind it was. If any aircraft parts have already been removed … this compromises the objectivity of the investigation."
On the diplomatic front, Western leaders stepped up the pressure on Putin. The leaders of France, Germany & Britain issued a joint statement demanding that he force the separatists to "finally allow rescuers & investigators to have free & total access to the zone."
Ukrainian Emergency workers carry a victim's body in a body bag as pro-Russian fighters stand in …
Rutte said the Dutch foreign minister was headed to the U.N. to lobby "to further expand the international coalition pushing for quick recovery of the bodies & getting to the bottom of the terrible events on MH17."
In the Netherlands, worshippers at church services prayed for the victims, as anger grew over the rebels' hindering of the investigation.
Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, & his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, were among those killed, said she was appalled their bodies weren't being handed over.
"Mr. Putin, send my children home," she said, speaking on Sky TV from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport. "Send them home. Please."
Peter Leonard in Kiev; Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow; Nicholas Garriga in Hrabove, Ukraine; Lucian Kim in Kharkiv, Ukraine; Michael Corder in The Hague, Netherlands; Danica Kirka in London, Lolita C. Baldor in Washington & Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
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Source: “Associated Press”