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Ukraine rebels take bodies from crash site

Reports say remains of 196 victims of jet disaster loaded on to train, with destination said to be a rebel-held town.

Last updated: 20 Jul 2014 15:44
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News agencies said all bodies were now off the crash site [Reuters]

Pro-Russian separatists say they have loaded a train with 196 bodies recovered from the crash site of the Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine.

News agencies said on Sunday no bodies remained at the crash site, a day after the AP reported rebels putting bagged bodies onto trucks and driving them away. No armed separatists were seen at the site.

Al Jazeera's Nazanine Moshiri, reporting from the Grabovo site, said observers from the European security body, the OSCE, were present at a nearby railway station where the bodies were being stored in frozen carriages.   

"We are waiting to hear where the train will be heading. We understand it will be going to Ukrainian government-controlled territory," Moshiri said.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile at the passenger jet as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur 33,000 feet above eastern Ukraine.

Both deny the charge. All of those on the plane - 283 passengers and 15 crew - were killed.

News reports of how the bodies had been decaying for days in the summer sun had ignited outrage worldwide, especially from the Netherlands, home to over half the victims.

Alexander Pilyushny, an emergency worker combing the crash site for body parts on Sunday morning, told the AP it took the rebels several hours to take away the bodies on Saturday.

He said he and other emergency workers had no choice but to hand the bodies over to the rebels.

"They are armed and we are not," Pilyushny said. "The rebels came, put the bodies onto the trucks and took them away somewhere."

Pilyushny could not explain what happened to the more than 100 bodies of plane victims that have not yet been recovered. 

Earlier, the Ukraine government claimed it had reached a preliminary deal with the separatists to remove the bodies.

The US has blamed the separatists, and said the airliner was probably hit by an SA-11 missile from rebel-held territory. It said it could not rule out technical assistance from Russia.

Despite restrictions at the crash site, separatist leader Aleksander Borodai insisted the rebels have not in any way interfered with the work of the OSCE observers. The organisation disagreed with Borodai's version of events.

The Dutch led the way in outrage over how the victims' bodies were being treated.

"The news we got today of the bodies being dragged around, of the site not being treated properly, has really created a shock in the Netherlands,'' said the Dutch foreign minister, Frans Timmermans.

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