Kiev: Ukraine has accused Russia of helping separatist insurgents destroy evidence at the crash site of shot down Malaysian airliner MH17.
“The Ukrainian government officially announces: terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime,” Ukraine’s government said in a statement, adding that rebels had removed 38 bodies from the scene and were blocking Ukrainian investigators from accessing the site.
Outraged world leaders have demanded Russia’s immediate cooperation in a prompt and independent probe into the shooting down on Thursday of flight MH17 with 298 people on board.
A team of nearly 30 monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were to try and gain access to the grisly crash site on Saturday after meeting resistance from armed rebels the day before.
But they face a massive challenge in gathering evidence that could definitively determine why the flight ended prematurely in a lawless region where Ukrainian forces have thus far been unable to exert control.
Rebels backed up by strong diplomatic support from the kremlin remain in control of the area and have shown few signs of being ready to cooperate with an investigation that could potentially blame them for attacking the jet.
The sunflower fields of the war-ravaged former Soviet nation remained littered with dismembered remains of scarred bodies and personal effects such as slippers of 298 people whose lives were cut short as they flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed by phone that “all countries should engage to ensure that pro-Russian separatists grant investigators secure and unhindered access to the crash site,” Downing Street said.
The head of the Ukrainian Security Service announced on Saturday that OSCE-mediated talks “concluded with an agreement to set up a 20-kilometre (12-mile) security zone so that Ukraine could fulfil the most important thing – identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives.”
But the pro-Kiev administration of the Donetsk province where the doomed flight ended so abruptly alleged that militias in control of the area “had stolen the bodies of 36 victims (and) loaded them onto truck as if they were sacks.”
There was no independent confirmation of the claim or explanation from the local authorities as to why the rebels would remove bodies from the scene.
Ukrainian rescue workers said they had recovered 186 bodies thus far.
(With AFP inputs)