MH17: Train carrying 282 bodies arrives in Kharkiv as Russian separatists hand over black boxes from downed jet

The train left Donetsk early Monday morning but was delayed due to technical difficulties it experienced during the journey

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The Independent Online

The train carrying 282 bodies of people killed in the downing of Flight MH17 last week has arrived in Kharkiv.

Five refrigerated carriages containing the remains of those killed when their plane was hit by a rocket while flying over south-eastern Ukraine, rolled into the Ukrainian government-held city at around 2pm local time today.

The train that set off from rebel-held Donetsk at midnight on Tuesday morning was scheduled to arrive in Kharkiv at midday today but was delayed after technical difficulties .

It is now expected that the bodies will be taken to Malyshev tank factory and then taken away by representatives from the victims' home countries.

Representatives from the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia - which lost 193, 27 and 42 citizens respectively - are all in Kharkiv awaiting the bodies.

The body parts of an additional 16 victims are also said to have been recovered.

A decision on the transportation of the bodies to be made later today, but it is expected that the bodies of the Dutch victims will be taken to Hilversum, in the Netherlands, for identification - a process which could take months, the country's Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, warned.

Video: Ukrainian rebels say they are giving boxes to 'experts'

The Black box

Last night saw pro-rebel forces hand over MH17's black box to Malaysian officials.

With negotiations between the so-called Donetsk’s People’s Republic and Malaysian officials lasting 12 hours, the group’s leader, Alexander Borodai eventually decided to hand over the boxes to Malaysian National Security Council leader, Colonel Mohamed Sakri, at a packed press conference in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

In front of cameras and the expectant press Borodai placed the two ‘black boxes’, which were actually orange, on the desk for the Malaysian delegation to take away and investigate.

The leader, who took over as the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic in May, used the opportunity to once again to deny that it was rebel armed forces that were responsible for downing the plane, claiming that they did not have the “technical ability” nor “the motive” to be capable of bringing down the plane.

The decision to give away the box followed a conversation between Borodai and Malaysian Prime minister Najib Razak.

At the conference, the Malaysian delegation leader, Sakri, took the opportunity to thank Borodai, reporting that the black boxes looked in “good condition”.


He said: “I can see that the black box is intact even though a little bit damaged, but in a good condition.”

Sakri refused to answer questions on who he believed was responsible for the tragedy that saw 189 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians, 27 Australians, (including 15 crew) and 10 Britons killed.

The decision by pro-Russian separatists to hand over the black boxes follows almost four days of calls by the international community for the pro-Russian separatists to hand over the black boxes and allow a full scale investigation into the downing of MH17 to take place.  

Calls from world leaders have urged the rebels in control of the site to give them access hand over the flight recorders and allow investigators access to the site.

President Barack Obama accused the rebels of tampering with evidence and insulting victims' families and warned of new sanctions.

In an article in the Sunday Times, David Cameron supported Obama, saying that Russia could face sanctions if it did not use its influence over separatists to ensure a proper investigation could take place.

Video: The European response to MH17 crash

Europeans will consider sanctions at a meeting on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Ukranian forces reported that they had telephone recordings that allegedly proved pro-Russian separatists troops had been ordered to conduct a search for the two flight recording boxes so that they could be handed to Russian officials before being released to the international investigators.

The rebels denied that these recordings were genuine.

On Monday, Russia's Defence Ministry said it saw no evidence a missile was fired and denied involvement in the downing of Flight 17 — and suggested the Ukrainian military was at fault.

President Vladimir Putin spoke out but showed no sign of abandoning the separatists as fighting flared anew near the site of the crash.

Four days since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, pro-Moscow separatists have finally agreed to release the aeroplane’s flight recorder to Malaysian officials, as the bodies of 192 victims embarked on a train journey away from the flight's wreckage site to the Ukranian city of Kharkiv.

International forensics experts finally gained access to the crash site on Monday — an emotional experience for the head of the Dutch National Forensic Investigations Team, Peter Van Vliet. Seeing the wreckage gave him goosebumps, he said.

The team of international observers also reported strange behaviour by workers at the sprawling crash site.

As investigations continued, Tuesday morning saw the refrigerated train carriages carrying the bodies of some 198 victims begin their journey to the city of Kharkiv.

Additional Reporting AP