A train carrying 282 bodies and remains of other victims of downed Malaysian Air flight MH17 arrived in Kharkiv today, ending days of demands that pro-Russian rebels release the bodies.
Five gray refrigerated train wagons carrying the remains and another with experts arrived at an industry plant in the government-controlled city, Ukraine’s second largest city with a population of 1.5 million. The bodies are now being prepared for transport to the Netherlands, Esther Naber, a spokeswoman for a Dutch team of forensic investigators told reporters.
The International Air Transport Association said today that the slow progress on the probe was an “outrage to human decency.” The plane en route to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam was shot down July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. The U.S. indicated that it believes the Russian military supplied the missile that downed the flight. Russian President Vladimir Putin said his opponents are using the crash for “selfish political gains.”
“The bodies of the victims must be returned to their grieving loved ones in a respectful manner,” IATA’s Director General Tony Tyler said in a statement. “For over four days we witnessed appalling sights from the crash scene. Governments must set aside their differences and treat the victims and their families with the dignity they deserve - and this includes urgently securing the site.”
The smell of decaying bodies hovered over the crash site littered with burnt fuselage parts, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) south from Kharkiv. The perimeter was still protected by rebel gunmen today as international inspectors collected evidence for the investigation.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe noted some differences when observing fuselage compared to the first time they saw it, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the delegation, told reporters today without elaborating.
An Orthodox religious service was held near the field, which was strewn with mobile phones, flight attendants’ badges, vinyl disks and Ray-Ban sunglasses from the plane’s duty-free stores, according to a Bloomberg reporter on the scene.
The first airplane with some of the victims’ bodies is expected to leave Ukraine tomorrow, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference in the Hague.
At the moment, 90 international investigators and some 30 diplomats are preparing the bodies for transfer to the Netherlands, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroisman told reporters in Kharkiv today.
“It’s very important for us that all actions meet international laws,” Hroisman said, adding that if rebels hadn’t been involved, Ukraine would have “done all necessary procedures sooner.”
Hroisman said later in the evening that at least 50 bodies were ready to depart for the Netherlands tomorrow and that the process should be completed by July 25.
“We are sure that there are 200 bodies in two wagons,” Jan Tuinder, a Dutch expert, told reporters. “This is what has been identified so far. In the Netherlands we will identify the remains.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at firstname.lastname@example.org; Denis Kazansky in Kharkiv at email@example.com; Stepan Kravchenko in Moscow at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at email@example.com Andrea Dudik, Kevin Costelloe