Ukraine Violence Again Spikes as Accusations Fly over Flight MH17
Victims remains are on their way to international investigators as UN Security Council heads toward vote
Violence in eastern Ukraine is again flaring on Monday as an international team of investigators and forensic experts were examining the crash site of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 that crashed last week after it was apparently shot down by anti-aircraft fire in the contested region.
A train carrying the remains of many of the disaster's victims reportedly left a local station, headed for the city of Kharkiv. According to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Monday, the remains aboard the train will given over to Dutch authorities and other investigators. 193 of the total 298 victims on board Flight 17 were from the Netherlands.
According to the Guardian's live blog on the ongoing situation:
Razak says Alexander Borodai, a rebel leader, has spoken with him and agreed to hand over both MH17 black boxes and remains of 282 bodies, my colleague Kate Hodal reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Razak told reporters that he has made personal contact with rebel leader Alexander Borodai, who has agreed to both hand over the black boxes to Malaysian authorities and send the remains of 282 bodies to Kharkiv, and then on to the Netherlands.
"The remains of 282 people, currently in Torez, will be moved by train to Kharkiv, where they will be handed over to representatives from the Netherlands," he said.
"Train with the bodies of those who were lost in MH-17 plane crash started its movement from the area of the disaster," Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko confirmed in a statement, saying the train would be under constant guard as it moved through Donetsk towards Kharkiv.
As high-level accusations fly over who exactly downed the commercial aircraft, the international political tensions continue to grow as new violence between the Ukraine army and separatists on the ground.
U.S. President Barack Obama has condemned Ukrainian separatists who maintain control over the crash site and accused them of hampering attempts to investigate the scene.
"What exactly are they trying to hide?" Obama asked.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday indicated that Russia should be held responsible for the catastrophe, though others challenged his case based on circumstantial evidence and innuendo.
Independent journalist Robert Parry cautioned against the coverage provided by many U.S.-based and other western media outlets. What too many Americans are seeing, Parry wrote on Sunday, " is the major U.S. news outlets, led by the Washington Post and the New York Times, publishing the most inflammatory of articles based largely on unreliable Ukrainian officials and on the U.S. State Department which was a principal instigator of the Ukraine crisis."
Fighting on Monday was again underway in the city of Donetsk, approximately 40 kilometers from the crash site, as the Ukrainian military resumed its campaign against militarized factions who control the city and have rejected the authority of the Kiev government and declared autonomy.
A Ukrainian military spokesman confirmed that the operation was in progress but would not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk. "The active phase of the anti-terrorist operation is continuing. We are not about to announce any troop movements," said Vladyslav Seleznyov.
Donetsk is at the heart of a rebel uprising against rule by Kiev, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to retake the city as part of what Kiev calls its "anti-terrorist operation" against the separatists.
Against a background of international horror over the fate of the remains of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines disaster, the first international investigators reached eastern Ukraine on Monday.
Three members of a Dutch disaster victims identification team arrived at a railway station near the crash site where rebels say 247 bodies have been stored in refrigerated wagons. More than half of the crash victims were Dutch.
The head of the team inspected the storage of the bodies in the rail cars and, despite an overwhelming stench of decomposition when the doors were opened, said it was fine.
"The storage of the bodies is of good quality," said Peter van Vliet, whose team went through the wagons dressed in surgical masks and rubber gloves.
On Monday, the UN Security Council is expected to hold a vote on a resolution, put forth by Australia, that will condemn the downing of the airliner and demand backing for a full investigation that will lead to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
According to Reuters:
Ukraine and its Western allies accuse Moscow of fueling a pro-Russian uprising that threatens to break up the former Soviet republic of 46 million people. Russia denies orchestrating the unrest and says Ukraine's attempts to end it by military force are making the situation worse.
Moscow denies any involvement in shooting down the airliner and has blamed the Ukrainian military. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry put forward on Sunday the most detailed accusations so far that Russia provided insurgents with the sophisticated anti-aircraft systems used to down the aircraft.
Russian President Vladimir Putin urged the pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine to cooperate and insisted that an international investigation must not leap to conclusions.
The draft U.N. resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability" and "calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident."