KHARKIV (AA) – A train carrying the bodies of 282 of the 298 people on the downed Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 reached the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Tuesday.
The bodies, which will be examined before they are handed over to the relatives of the victims, were brought to the Malyshev military tank and armored vehicle factory in the city amid an ongoing war of words between Ukraine and Russia as to who brought down the plane.
Six Malaysian recovery team members travelled along with the bodies and the two black boxes, which were delivered to a special Malaysian team in eastern Ukraine early on Tuesday.
The Boeing 777-200, en-route to Amsterdam from Kuala Lumpur, was downed Thursday near Hrabove in Donetsk, Ukraine — about 40 kilometers (25 miles) from the Ukrainian-Russian border, killing all 298 people – 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers – on board.
Since the plane came down, Ukraine and Russia have exchanged accusations as to who was responsible.
Russia denies any involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, accusing Ukraine of having brought down the plane by a ground-to-air missile, whereas Ukraine insists that all Ukrainian planes were on the ground at the time of the incident.
Russia’s ambassador to Malaysia, Lyudmila G. Vorobyeva, reiterated Tuesday that her country had no involvement in the tragedy, claiming that pro-Russian rebels in Donetsk had only portable missiles in their possession.
“What they do have is a portable weapon that can shoot up to 5,000 meters. It is incapable of targeting or shooting a commercial airliner flying at 30,000 feet (9144 meters),” she told a packed news conference in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
The Kiev administration, on the other hand, alleges that it was the separatists who used the sophisticated BUK ground-to-air missile system to bring down the MH17, and that the Russian military has never supplied anything more to Ukraine than the portable machine.
However, Russia has said it has evidence that Ukraine’s military had positioned a sophisticated missile launcher near the crash site in eastern Ukraine, and that one of its fighters, a Sukhoi-25 jet, was tailing the Boeing 777-200 some 3.5 kilometers away before the tragedy.
Ukraine denies this, with President Petro Poroshenko – who has called the downing of MH17 an act of “terrorism” – saying the Russian allegation simply is not true.
“Everybody knows that in this period of time when the tragedy happened all Ukrainian planes were on the ground [in the area],” he has told media.
-Black boxes delivered to Malaysian experts
Pro-Russian rebels in control of the crash site have handed over the plane’s two black boxes to a special Malaysian team in eastern Ukraine.
The boxes were handed over Tuesday by Alexander Borodai, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, which holds power in the region, to Malaysian team leader Khairil Hilmi Mokhtar in Donetsk.
“We will take them to the Netherlands before bringing them back home to Malaysia,” Khairil Hilmi was quoted by Malaysian National News Agency as saying.
He said all recovered passengers’ bodies would be sent to the Netherlands for further investigations before being brought to Malaysia.
The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution Monday calling for “a full, thorough and independent international investigation into the incident in accordance with international civil aviation guidelines.”
Meanwhile, the governor of Donetsk on Tuesday asked people to leave the area as violence between government forces and pro-Russian separatists is ongoing.
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