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Rebels 'destroying evidence'

Ukrainian rescue workers walk past an armed pro-Russia militant as they carry the body of a victim on a stretcher at the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine yesterday.

Ukrainian rescue workers walk past an armed pro-Russia militant as they carry the body of a victim on a stretcher at the site of the Malaysia Airlines plane crash in Grabove, in rebel-held east Ukraine yesterday.

Ukraine says separatist group trying to move remnants of jet debris to Russia

The Ukrainian government has claimed that "Russian-led terrorists" are destroying evidence at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

The government said in a statement that "the terrorists" had taken 38 bodies from the crash site to a morgue in the city of Donetsk, "where the 'experts' with Russian accents claimed they intend to perform autopsies".

It said separatist groups were trying to move remnants of the aircraft to Russia. "We urge the international community to oblige Russia to withdraw its terrorists from Ukraine and to allow the Ukrainian and international experts to hold a comprehensive investigation."

The Ukrainian government also accused pro-Russian separatists of hindering investigation into the passenger plane's downing in the east of the country.

Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman said experts from Kiev would only be allowed to stay at the crash site for 30 minutes under the supervision of armed rebels. He called on the separatists to give an international commission free access to the site, where the United States says flight MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), who are not forensic experts, reached the crash site near the Ukraine-Russian border late on Friday but were denied full access to the debris field by the rebels who control the area, chairman Thomas Greminger said.

Members of Ukraine's Emergency Situations Service had also reached the scene but rebels were complicating their recovery efforts, said Serhiy Taruta, the Kiev-appointed governor of the Donetsk region.Ukraine's intelligence chief, Valentin Nalivaichenko, said the insurgents had formed a "security zone" around the wreck, adding that "we hope the terrorists disappear and allow us to work".

Separatist leader Andrei Purgin rejected the allegations and said the "people’s militia" were in the area to ensure an "objective investigation".

Emergency services said early yesterday that 186 bodies were recovered. The search for the other victims' remains was complicated by the fact that the wreckage was scattered over 25 square kilometres. About 170 emergency workers were near the site, including divers who were to search a nearby lake, a spokesman said. All the bodies were to be taken to a laboratory in Kharkiv, more than 250 kilometres north of the crash site far from rebel-held territory.

The Interior Ministry said hundreds of rooms have been reserved at a hotel in Kharkiv for relatives of the victims, and that translators and psychologists were also on hand.

US President Barack Obama has called the deaths of all 298 people onboard "an outrage of unspeakable proportions", joining the chorus of world leaders calling for an immediate investigation into the mid-flight disaster that struck the Boeing 777-200 as it flew on Thursday from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Obama called on Russia, pro-Russian separatists and Ukraine to adhere to an immediate ceasefire to allow an investigation. "We know that these separatists have received a steady flow of support from Russia," he said. "This includes arms and training, it includes heavy weapons, and it includes anti-aircraft weapons."

The US ambassador to the United Nations told an emergency UN Security Council meeting that there was evidence the Moscow-backed rebels used an SA-11 surface-to-air missile to down the plane from about 10,000 metres.

"It is unlikely that the separatists could effectively operate the system without assistance from knowledgeable personnel," Samantha Power said. "Thus we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel in operating the systems."

In an overnight call between Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the two leaders "emphasised that Russia bears a clear responsibility to deny separatists in eastern Ukraine continued access to heavy weapons and other support from inside Russia," the White House said.

A purported recording of a militant leader boasting about the downed aircraft to a Russian military intelligence officer proved thatMoscow and the separatists were culpable, Poroshenko said. The unverified phone call was posted on YouTube by Ukraine's security service, which said the message was intercepted.

"Undoubtedly, the state on whose territory this happened is responsible for this terrible tragedy," Putin told a Kremlin meeting.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed that "no stone will be left unturned" in the investigation. Malaysia has sent a 62-member team to help in the retrieval of bodies and plane wreckage.






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