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22

Jul


DONETSK (Ukraine): The remains of some of the nearly 300 victims of the Malaysia Airlines plane downed over Ukraine were making their way to the Netherlands on Tuesday as a senior Ukrainian separatist leader handed over the plane's black boxes to Malaysian experts.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told a news conference on Monday that a train carrying around 200 body bags was on its way to rebel-held Donetsk and then to Kharkiv, which is in Ukrainian government hands, from where the bodies would be taken back to the Netherlands to be identified.

The train left the crash site after the Malaysian prime minister reached agreement with the separatists for recovered bodies to be handed over to authorities in the Netherlands, where the largest number of victims came from.

Early on Tuesday, senior separatist leader Aleksander Borodai handed over the black boxes in the city of Donetsk.

READ ALSO: 'Thanks for murdering my child,' MH17 victim's father tells Putin


Senior Ukrainian separatist leader Borodai speaks during a handover of Malaysia Airlines MH17's black boxes to Malaysian Colonel Sakri in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk. (Reuters photo)

"Here they are, the black boxes," Borodai told a room packed with journalists at the headquarters of his self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic as an armed rebel placed the boxes on a desk.

Colonel Mohamed Sakri of the Malaysian national security council told the meeting the two black boxes were "in good condition".

The handover of the bodies and black boxes, and reports by international investigators of improved access to the wreckage of the airliner four days after it was shot down, occurred against calls for broader sanctions against Russia for its support for the rebellion, although western leaders are struggling to agree on a united response.


A pro-Russian separatist places black boxes belonging to Malaysia Airlines MH17 on a desk before their handover to Malaysian representatives. (Reuters photo)

Shaken by the deaths of 298 people from across the world, western governments have threatened Russia with stiffer penalties for what they say is its backing of pro-Russian militia who, their evidence suggests, shot the plane down.

At the United Nations, the security council unanimously adopted a resolution demanding those responsible "be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability".

It also demanded that armed groups allow "safe, secure, full and unrestricted access" to the crash site.


Members of the UN security council vote on a resolution concerning access to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 21, 2014. (AP photo)

READ ALSO: ​UN security council demands access to MH17 crash site in Ukraine

"We owe it to the victims and their families to determine what happened and who was responsible," said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, who traveled to New York to negotiate the UN resolution. Australia lost 28 citizens in the crash.

The Kremlin said in a statement late on Monday that Vladimir Putin spoke to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on the phone, with both giving a "high assessment of the resolution passed by the UN Security Council on the investigation into the catastrophe."

Meanwhile, European Union foreign ministers were scheduled on Tuesday to discuss further penalties against Russia, but the most they are expected to do is to speed up implementation of sanctions against individuals, and possibly companies, agreed in principle last week before the plane was brought down.



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