UK & World News

  • 21 July 2014, 14:06

Rebels 'Call The Shots' At MH17 Crash Site

The tense region of Ukraine that contains the charred crash site of flight MH17 is crawling with pro-Russian separatists, Sky's Michelle Clifford says from the scene.

They control not only the plane's final resting place but the entire area around Grabovo, keeping tabs on the growing number of people on the ground.

"Everywhere you look, there are heavily armed men," Clifford said.

"The rebels dictate where the investigators can go and for how long. They call the shots here."

The security team members sent to Grabovo to protect the spot where MH17 came down are still being forced to keep their distance, held back by armed men in military uniforms.

Having voiced their frustrations at a lack of access so far, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe observers inched closer to the crash site on Monday morning.

"They are being escorted to the crash site but they're standing at the edge, not probing through the wreckage," Clifford said.

"They want to create a secure corridor, a safe passage, for investigators to be able to come in.

"It does seem extraordinary that, four days after the crash, those investigators still haven't been able to comb through the wreckage."

The task that lies ahead is unimaginable.

Clifford reported seeing dozens of victims, zipped into body bags, being pulled from crash site and hauled onto one of the rebels' trucks.

They were probably headed for the refrigerated trains in Torez in which bodies have been piled up, waiting to be identified.

Separatists, labelled "terrorists" and "bloody guerrillas" by the Ukrainian government, are accused of keeping the trains at the station.

Clifford said there is little doubt that, even in this makeshift morgue, the rebels remain in control.

"I spoke to staff on the train and asked, 'Where are you going?'

"They told me, 'We don't know. We haven't been told anything. We don't where we're going or what time we're going.'

"Those bodies are still there today.

"Dutch forensic teams who have been able to look inside the carriages have been told the bodies will be taken to a place where examinations can begin.

"The speculation is that place is Donetsk, the heartland of rebel-held territory in Ukraine.

"Everything remains in the separatists' hands.

"Whatever protestations the Ukrainian government make frankly aren't making a blind bit of difference."