Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Monitors quit site after 'intoxicated' rebel gunman fires warning shot

Ukraine has accused pro-Russian rebels of removing 38 bodies from crash site and 'destroying evidence'

A team of international observers say they have been refused full access to the rebel-controlled Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site, with one “visibly intoxicated guard” firing a warning shot into the air during their visit.

Despite being assured by rebel commanders they would ensure safe access for international experts visiting the scene where all 298 passengers aboard the flight died, the team of monitors left the site after just half an hour.

An Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) team member, Michael Bociurkiw, told journalists: "A visibly intoxicated armed guard fired his rifle in the air when one of the observers walked out of the prescribed area."

However, 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, according to its spokesman, Andriy Lysenko.

"At 7 am on 19 July, 186 bodies have been found. The area that needs to be checked stands at 25 square km. Eighteen square km have already been checked," he told a news conference.

"The fighters have allowed Emergencies Ministry workers in there, but they do not allow them to take anything from the area. The fighters are taking away all that has been found."

The OSCE said they were unable to establish an access corridor for specialist teams to investigate the area where the Boeing 777-200 fell between Krasni Luch in Luhansk region and Shakhtarsk in the neighbouring region of Donetsk.

They also could not find anyone to talk to about the plane's two black boxes and said villagers were seen removing pieces of wreckage, prompting fears crucial evidence needed to determine what, and who, is responsible for the tragedy could be tampered with.

Sergei Kavtaradze, a senior official of the pro-Russian rebels' self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, said despite discussions, no agreement had been reached.

"There is no security zone. It is in a region near the front. There is military activity there," Kavtaradze told the Reuters news agency.

The bodies of those who died have still not been removed or tended to 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.

"The government of Ukraine officially states that the terrorists, with the help of Russia, are trying to destroy evidence of international crimes," the government said in a statement released today.

"According to government data, the terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in (the eastern city of) Donetsk," it said, accusing specialists with "strong Russian accents" of threatening to carry out their own autopsies.

Ukrainian coal miners prepare to search the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane Ukrainian coal miners prepare to search the site of a crashed Malaysia Airlines passenger plane Mr Bociurkiw said the bodies had been marked but rescue workers could not say whose job it will be to remove them. 

Western based-defence specialists and intelligence specialists have also oiced fears pro-Russian separatists are hastily working to conceal any links to a Buk missile battery some suspect was used to shoot down the plane, The Guardian has reported.

READ MORE: 'Second black box recovered' from crash site
REBELS 'DISCUSS DOWNING OF FLIGHT MH17' IN LEAKED AUDIO
UKRAINE REVELS DENY 'SHOOTING DOWN' JET
UKRAINE TO LAUNCH INVESTIGATION INTO CRASH

Their withdrawal came as a British team of experts from the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) were due to arrive in Ukraine’s capital Kiev for an investigation into the downing of the jet.

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.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said the aircraft’s flight route was declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to learn ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Lead

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the North West's leading providers of w...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders