TOREZ, Ukraine (AP) â€” Rebels in eastern Ukraine took control Sunday of the bodies recovered from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, & the U.S. & European leaders demanded that Russian President Vladimir Putin make sure rebels donate international investigators full access to the crash site.
"There's a stacking up of evidence here, which Russia needs to assist account for. We are not drawing the final conclusion here. But there is a lot that points at the need for Russia to be responsible," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on NBC's "Meet the Press" television show.
The key question of who controlled the collection of evidence at the sprawling crash site in rebel-held territory dominated the day's rapid-fire developments. International monitors say armed rebels have limited their access to the crash site & Ukrainian officials said armed rebels took the bodies away from their workers by force.
p>Ukraine & the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile Thursday at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny shooting down the plane. All those onboard the flight â€” 283 passengers & 15 crew â€” were killed.
A wave of international outrage over how the bodies of the plane crash victims were being handled came amid fears that the armed rebels who control the crash site could be tampering with the evidence there.
Donetsk rebel leader Alexander Borodai said the bodies recovered from the crash site would remain in refrigerated train cars in the rebel-held town of Torez, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the crash site, until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.
A woman looks at a refrigerated train loaded with the bodies of victims, in Torez, eastern Ukraine, …
"The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive," Borodai said, speaking in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.
He moreover said the plane's black boxes have been recovered & will be handed over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Borodai said he was expecting a team of 12 Malaysian experts & that he was disappointed at how long they had taken to arrive. He insisted that rebels had not interfered with the crash investigation, despite reports to the contrary by international monitors & journalists at the crash site.
Ukrainian government officials, meanwhile, prepared a disaster crisis center in the government-held city of Kharkiv, expecting to receive the bodies, yet those hopes appeared delayed or even dashed Sunday.
Deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman said 192 bodies & eight body parts were loaded onto the railway cars.
Emergency workers carry the body of a victim at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near t …
The leaders of France, Germany & Britain issued a statement demanding that Putin make sure that pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine donate full access to investigators at the Malaysian plane crash site or risk the ire of Europe.
French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel & British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed Sunday to demand that Putin force separatists controlling the site to "finally allow rescuers & investigators to have free & total access to the zone."
A statement from Hollande's office said if Russia fails "to immediately take the needed measures, consequence will be drawn" at an EU foreign ministers meeting Tuesday.
Ukraine says Russia has been sending sophisticated arms to the rebels, a charge that Moscow denies.
The U.S. embassy in Kiev issued a strong statement Sunday pointing to Russian complicity in arming the rebels, saying it has concluded "that Flight MH17 was likely downed by a SA-11 surface-to-air missile from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine." It said over the weekend of July 12-13, "Russia sent a convoy of military equipment with up to 150 vehicles, including tanks armored personnel carriers artillery, & multiple rockets launchers" to the separatists. The statement moreover said Russia was training separatist fighters in southwest Russia, including on air defense systems.
Ukrainian miners carry the body of a victim at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near th …
The rebels have been strictly limiting the movements of international monitors & journalists at the crash site, which is near the Russian border,
Associated Press journalists saw reeking bodies baking in the summer heat Saturday, piled into body bags by the side of the road or still sprawled where they landed in the verdant farmland in eastern Ukraine after their plane was shot out of the sky.
By Sunday morning, AP journalists saw no bodies & no armed rebels at the crash site. Emergency workers were searching the sprawling fields only for body parts. Heavy machinery was seen moving plane debris around.
There was no immediate word on the bodies of the 102 other plane victims, yet Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for monitors from the Organization for Security & Cooperation in Europe, said some bodies have likely been 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 told reporters in Kiev on Sunday, speaking via phone from the crash site.
An armed man looks at charred debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the villa …
Alexander Pilyushny, an emergency worker combing the crash site for body parts Sunday, told the AP it took the rebels several hours Saturday to cart away the bodies. He said he & other workers had no choice yet to hand them over.
"They are armed & we are not," Pilyushny said.
Nataliya Khuruzhaya, a duty officer at the train station in Torez, said emergency workers loaded plane victims' bodies Sunday into five sealed, refrigerated train cars.
Vasily Khoma, deputy of governor of the Kharkiv region where Ukraine has set up a crisis center to handle the disaster, said the Ukrainian state railway company had provided the refrigerated train cars. Kharkiv is 300 kilometers (185 miles) north of the crash site.
He said no information was available on when airplane parts would be brought to the city & that the priority now was on recovering bodies. He said a mobile lab to handle DNA analysis was being delivered from Dnipropetrovsk.
Charred bones are mixed with debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the villag …
Residents in Kharkov have been inundating a special call center to offer their services as volunteers. Ten hotels in Kharkiv say they will donate free rooms for relatives of the victims.
In a blistering article for the Sunday Times, Cameron called the attack a "direct result of Russia destabilizing a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias & training & arming them."
"We must turn this moment of outrage into a moment of action," the British leader wrote.
In a coded rebuke of Merkel & other European leaders who have blocked efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Putin for Russia's actions in Ukraine, Cameron said Europe must now "respond robustly."
"For too long, there has been a reluctance on the part of too many European countries to face up to the implications of what is happening in eastern Ukraine," Cameron wrote.
A man walks amongst charred debris at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village …
In the Netherlands, worshippers at church services across the country prayed Sunday for the victims of the Ukraine air disaster & their next of kin, as anger built over the rebels' hindering of the investigation.
At the St. Vitus church in the central city of Hilversum, Father Julius Dresme summed up the nation's pain.
"It's terrible, & everybody's hearts are bleeding & crying," he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans, speaking in Kiev, demanded that the culprits be found.
"Once we have the proof, we will not stop until the people are brought to justice," he said.
Peter Leonard in Kiev; Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow; Nicholas Garriga in Hrabove, Ukraine; Lucian Kim in Kharkiv; Michael Corder in the Hague; Danica Kirka in London & Lolita C. Baldor in Washington contributed to this report.
Disasters & AccidentsSociety & Cultureeastern UkraineRussiaAlexander Borodai
Source: “Associated Press”