Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukraine accuses pro-Russian rebels of removing 38 bodies from site and 'destroying evidence'

Rescue workers have begun to recover bodies left on site for 48 hours

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The Independent Online

Ukraine has accused pro-Russian rebels of removing bodies and attempting to destroy evidence at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, as the corpses of victims were finally recovered from the scene nearly 48 hours after the plane was downed.

Investigators from the international policing organisation Interpol and its European counterpart Europol will go to Ukraine to help in the process of identifying victims, Reuters has reported. A spokesman for Europol would not comment on whether the organisations had been offered guarantees that they would have access to the crash site.

Earlier in the morning, the Ukrainian government accused pro-Russian rebels of removing 38 bodies from the scene and destroying evidence, which the rebels deny.

In a statement, the government claimed rebels had taken bodies of passengers to a morgue in the rebel-held city, and accused them of attempting to transport the plane's wreckage to Russia.

Concerns were raised over the investigation into the disaster today when a team of international observers say they have been refused full access to the site, with one “visibly intoxicated guard” firing a warning shot into the air during their visit.

Armed pro-Russian militants pass next to the wreckage

However, the OSCE monitors are now back at the crash site after rebels allowed them access on foot, but said they were not allowed access to part of the fields where the wreckage is located.

Official workers from Ukraine's Emergencies Ministry say they have explored 18 square km of a total 25 square km of the site where a Malaysian airliner crashed and have found 186 bodies, its spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said on Saturday.

The Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai also voiced fears the crash site "has not been properly secured" and that evidence was not being preserved, saying: "We must ensure that justice shall prevail”.

The bodies of those who died have remained in fields at the site for nearly 48 hours after the air disaster. Reports have also emerged of looting taking place as the victim’s belongings and clothes remain strewn across the fields and cornfields.

Passengers' belongings lie at the site of the crash

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Security Council claims the black boxes from MH17 have not yet been handed over to Kiev. The Donetsk separatist leader, Aleksander Borodai, has claimed they have not been recovered.

Downing Street said six investigators from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch would join the growing international probe into exactly how the plane came to crash on Thursday, killing 298 people, including 10 Britons, nearly 200 Dutch passengers and 80 children.

The Foreign Office has also sent extra consular staff to Ukraine and the Metropolitan Police offered to send specialist officers to the country to assist with the identification and repatriation of the victims.

Ukraine's government claims the plane was shot down by separatists and released an audio they claim proved this. But pro-Russian separatists deny this claim and say one of Ukraine's airforce jets was responsible.