UK & World News

  • 23 July 2014, 12:26

Planes With MH17 Victim's Bodies Leave Ukraine

The first victims recovered from downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 have started their journey back to the Netherlands from the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

A sombre departure ceremony took place at Kharkiv Airport as wooden coffins containing some of the bodies were loaded onto a Dutch C130 Hercules military aircraft.

It left the airbase for Eindhoven where it will be met by relatives, the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte and members of the Dutch royal family.

A faster Australian Boeing C17 took off two hours later carrying more victims and is due to land in Eindhoven at the same time.

Sky's Michelle Clifford, at the airport, said: "The real difficulty is planes are going to be coming in with bodies on board - but none of those families know whether their loved ones are going to be on those planes."

Ukraine's deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman told those gathered the downing of the plane was an "inhumane terrorist act" carried out with help from Russia, adding Kiev will do everything in its power to bring those guilty to justice.

The jet's black box flight data recorders have been delivered to British experts from the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch at Farnborough in Hampshire to download over the next 24 hours and the information handed to international investigators for analysis.

A national day of mourning has been declared in the Netherlands for the 298 people killed, the majority of whom were Dutch, and will include a silent march in Amsterdam.

A minute's silence will be held before a motorcade takes the bodies to the Korporaal van Oudheusden military barracks in Hilversum, where the long process of identifying the remains, aided by a team of British police officers, begins. It could take weeks or even months.

The Boeing 777-200 took off from Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport for Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia last Thursday when it was brought down near Grabovo, Donetsk, where Ukrainian forces have been battling separatists.

Five refrigerated wagons containing 200 bodies were released by rebels. It is thought more than 80 bodies have been left at the scene.

However, Australia's prime minister Tony Abbott said it was unclear how many bodies may have arrived in Kharkiv - and been left behind.

"It's quite possible that many bodies are still out there in the open, in the European summer, subject to interference and subject to the ravages of heat and animals," he said.

Sky's Chief Correspondent Stuart Ramsay, in Donetsk, said it was going to be "difficult" to find the unrecovered human remains, as while a ceasefire was in place at the crash site, the surroundings remain "a war zone"..

A senior US intelligence official said they believed pro-Russian separatists shot down the flight by mistake.

He confirmed evidence suggests the Russian government was not directly involved in causing the crash, but it "created the conditions" for the plane to be brought down by the rebels.

The official added Moscow was still supplying separatists with tanks and rocket launchers.

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