Ukraine's government on Saturday accused pro-Russian rebels in the east of the country of trying to destroy evidence at the site where a Malaysian airliner crashed and of removing 38 bodies from the scene.
"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.
"According to government data, the terrorists have taken 38 bodies to the morgue in Donetsk," it said, accusing specialists with "strong Russian accents" of threatening to carry out their own autopsies.
In Donetsk, both pro-Russian rebels and international observers said there was no agreement to create a security zone round the crash site, complicating efforts to secure evidence.
FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, reporting from Donetsk, said: “Since this crash occurred in rebel-controlled territory it’s not been possible for police to secure the area.”
“People have been pretty free to wander around as they wish and of course separatist fighters can do whatever they want and if they feel there is something they want to hide I’m sure they have been able to hide it and take it away,” Cragg added.
“There have also been reports of simple looting of people taking away the scrap metal,” he said.
Earlier, Valentyn Nalyvaichenko, head of Ukraine's security service, was quoted as saying talks between officials from Russia, Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe were continuing on setting up a 20 square kilometre region to help "a humanitarian mission" to move the bodies.
"We agreed on the 20 square kilometre, a concrete zone, and we hope the terrorists will allow us to work," Ukraine's UNIAN news agency quoted Nalyvaichenko as saying.
But Cragg pointed out: “It’s easy to say you’ve reached an agreement and then we have to see how it actually works out in practice. We don’t know what this 20 kilometre security zone that they’ve announced actually involves.”
A spokesman for the OSCE security watchdog, Michael Bociurkiw, said he was not aware of any agreement yet on the security zone, but this was "definitely one of the top issues".
Sergei Kavtaradze, a senior official of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic said the rebels had not agreed to set up such an area.
"There is no security zone,” Kavtaradze told Reuters. “It is in a region near the front. There is military activity there."
Meanwhile in Luhansk to the northeast of the crash site, fierce fighting continued to rage on Saturday.
Residents said pro-Russian rebels were shelling in all directions in the southeast part of the city, which Ukrainian Defence Minister Valery Heletey said on Friday that the army had taken.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-19