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Europe

Ukraine rebels 'have MH17 black boxes'

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-07-20

Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine on Sunday said they had recovered what they believe to be the black boxes from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 and would hand them over to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

"Some items, presumably the black boxes, were found, and they have been delivered to Donetsk and they are under our control," Aleksander Borodai, prime minister of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, told a news conference.

Borodai also said the bodies recovered from the crash site in eastern Ukraine would remain in refrigerated train cars at a station in the rebel-held town of Torez until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.

Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile Thursday at Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000 feet above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny shooting down the plane.

All those onboard the flight – 283 passengers and 15 crew – were killed.

The downing of the airliner has sharply escalated the crisis in Ukraine, and may mark a pivotal moment in international efforts to resolve a situation 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.

‘The bodies will go nowhere’

It was immediately not clear Sunday if the rebels and the Ukrainian government were working together or at odds with each other on recovering the bodies – and from their comments, many officials didn’t appear to know either.

A Ukrainian emergency spokeswoman said the armed rebels had forced emergency workers to hand over all 196 bodies recovered so far from the crash site and did not tell them where the bodies were going.

“The bodies will go nowhere until experts arrive,” Borodai said, speaking in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Borodai said he was expecting a team of 12 Malaysian experts and that he was disappointed at how long they had taken to arrive.

He insisted that rebels had not interfered with the crash investigation, despite reports to the contrary by international monitors and journalists at the crash site.

US blames separatists

Moscow denies any involvement in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Thursday and has blamed the Ukrainian military.

But Washington and its allies have pointed the finger at the pro-Russian separatists who have Moscow's backing and have been accused of obstructing access to the crash sites.

US Secretary of State John Kerry told CNN on Sunday it was “clear that this was a [missile] system that was transferred from Russia” and that the information available “points a very clear finger at the separatists”.

EU ministers should be ready to announce a fresh round of sanctions at a meeting of the European Union's Foreign Affairs Council this week, said a statement from British Prime Minister David Cameron's office, issued after calls with French President François Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"They ... agreed that the EU must reconsider its approach to Russia and that foreign ministers should be ready to impose further sanctions on Russia when they meet on Tuesday," the statement said.

The leaders also agreed to press Russian President Vladimir Putin to ensure investigators had free access to the crash site.

UNSC considers Australian draft resolution

The UN Security Council was considering a draft resolution to condemn the attack, demand armed groups allow access to the crash sites and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.

Australia - which lost 28 citizens in the crash – circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the Council late on Saturday and it could be put to a vote as early as Monday.

The Netherlands, whose citizens made up two-thirds of the 298 on the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, said it was "furious" about the manhandling of corpses strewn over open country and asked Ukraine for help to bring "our people" home.

US President Barack Obama said the disaster showed it was time to end the Ukraine conflict and Germany called it Moscow's last chance to cooperate.

Britain, which lost 10 citizens, said further sanctions were available for use against Russia. Cameron, writing in The Sunday Times, said European countries should make their power count.

"Yet we sometimes behave as if we need Russia more than Russia needs us."

Merkel, the most powerful figure in the EU, spoke to Putin on Saturday, urging his cooperation.

Her foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Moscow may have a last chance now to show that it really is seriously interested in a solution."

(FRANCE 24 with AP and REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-07-20

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