As investigators arrived to inspect the bodies of hundreds of
victims near the crash site, the fighting in Donetsk served as a
reminder of the dangers they face working in a war zone.
Artillery fire sent plumes of smoke skywards near the Donetsk
railway station, around 60 km (40 miles) from the crash site, in
what the separatists said was an attempt by government forces to
enter the city they seized in April.
Sergei Kavtaradze, of the rebels' self-proclaimed Donetsk People's
Republic, said at least four army tanks and armoured vehicles were
trying to break through into the city. Reuters also saw two rebel
tanks heading towards the railway station.
A Ukrainian military spokesman confirmed that the operation was in
progress but would not comment on reports of troops entering
Donetsk. "The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is
continuing. We are not about to announce any troop movements,"
Vladyslav Seleznyov said.
Donetsk is at the heart of a rebel uprising against rule by Kiev,
and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to retake the
city as part of what Kiev calls its "anti-terrorist operation"
against the separatists.
Against a background of international horror over the fate of the
remains of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, the
first international investigators reached eastern Ukraine on Monday.
Three members of a Dutch disaster victims identification team
arrived at a railway station near the crash site where rebels say
247 bodies have been stored in refrigerated wagons. About one third
of the crash victims were Dutch.
The head of the team inspected the storage of the bodies in the rail
cars and, despite an overwhelming stench of decomposition when the
doors were opened, said it was fine.
"The storage of the bodies is of good quality," said Peter van
Vliet, whose team went through the wagons dressed in surgical masks
and rubber gloves.
Van Vliet said he had been told the train would be leaving the
station at Torez later on Monday so that bodies can be taken to
where they can be identified and repatriated. He could not say where
it was going.
Ukrainian officials said as of Monday morning 272 bodies and 66
fragments of bodies had been found.
The shooting down of the airliner on Thursday has sharply deepened
the Ukrainian crisis, in which separatists in the Russian-speaking
east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev
forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea in
The United States and its allies have pointed the finger at the
pro-Russian rebels and at Moscow itself over the downing of the
plane. Russia has denied involvement and blamed the Ukrainian
military for the disaster.
SHOCK TURNS TO ANGER
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry laid out what he called
overwhelming evidence of Russian complicity in the shooting down of
the Malaysia Airlines plane, and expressed disgust at how the bodies
of the victims had been treated at the crash site.
"Drunken separatists have been piling bodies into trucks and
removing them from the site," he said on NBC television on Sunday.
"What's happening is really grotesque and it is contrary to
everything President Putin and Russia said they would do."
Television images of the rebel-controlled crash sites, where the
remains of victims had lain decomposing in fields among their
personal belongings, have turned initial shock and sorrow after
Thursday's disaster into anger.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had spoken to Putin
for the first time about the disaster. At least 27 Australians were
on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
Abbott said an Australian investigation team was in Kiev but had
been unable to travel to the site. He said there had been some
improvement with the Ukrainian government offering access.
"But there's still a hell of a long way to go before anyone could be
satisfied with the way that site is being treated," Abbott said.
"It's more like a garden cleanup than a forensic investigation. This
is completely unacceptable."
[to top of second column]
Emotions ran high in the Netherlands, where Prime Minister Mark
Rutte told parliament his government's priority was to recover and
identify the bodies of the passengers.
"It is clear that Russia must use her influence on the separatists
to improve the situation on the ground," Rutte said.
"If in the coming days access to the disaster area remains
inadequate, then all political, economic and financial options are
on the table against those who are directly or indirectly
responsible for that," he said.
Putin, in a televised address, said the downing of the airliner must
not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow
international experts access to the crash site.
The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to vote on Monday on a
resolution that would condemn the downing of the plane, and demands
that those responsible be held accountable and that armed groups not
compromise the integrity of the crash site.
European Union foreign ministers are due to meet on Tuesday and
could announce more sanctions. Britain is pushing for tougher
measures, and Italy said it expected a "strong and unified
But the EU is not expected to take tough action.
"Everything will depend on the determination of Dutch Prime Minister
Rutte. As you can see, for now he is having difficulty in coming up
with a clear Dutch position", said an EU diplomat.
"Other EU countries will be happy to help him, but the impulse must
come from The Hague because they have the moral mandate to demand a
resolute, firm reaction. Everything depends on that."
Ukraine said it was willing to hand over coordination of the crash
investigation to international partners, perhaps led by the
Netherlands, but Kiev was convinced the plane was shot down by
"At the moment, we have no doubt that the plane was shot down. The
reason for it - a missile strike most likely from a BUK-M1 (SA-11
radar guided missile system)," Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk told
a news conference.
"It is clear that this system could not be operated by drunk
pro-Russian terrorists. There were professional people."
Kerry said the United States had seen supplies moving into Ukraine
from Russia in the last month, including a 150-vehicle convoy of
armoured personnel carriers, tanks and rocket launchers given to the
It had also intercepted conversations about the transfer to
separatists of the Russian radar-guided SA-11 missile system, which
it blames for the Boeing 777's destruction.
(Additional reporting by Peter Graff in Hrabove, Pavel Polityuk,
Natalia Zinets and Elizabeth Piper in Kiev, Jim Loney, Doina Chiacu,
Ayesha Rascoe and Mark Hosenball in Washington, Michelle Nichols at
the United Nations, Allison Lampert in Montreal, Lincoln Feast and
Jane Wardell in Sydney, William James in London and Nicholas Vinocur
in Paris; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by David Stamp and
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