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Bodies of MH17 Victims Leave Ukraine   07/23 06:37

   KHARKIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of 
victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash left the embattled plains of eastern 
Ukraine Wednesday, bringing some consolation to grieving relatives who still 
must wait for positive identifications and answers about who caused the 

   The Dutch government declared a day of national mourning as the country 
prepared for the arrival of the first bodies in the afternoon. The crash on 
Thursday killed all 298 people --- most of them Dutch citizens --- aboard 
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

   Ukraine and western nations are pressing the pro-Russian rebels who control 
the crash site to allow an unfettered an investigation, something Russian 
President Vladimir Putin said he would use his influence to achieve. Though 
confident that a missile brought down the aircraft, U.S. officials say Russia's 
role remains unclear.

   Two military transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, departed at 
midday, heading for Eindhoven air base, to be met by Dutch King 
Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of 

   For one grieving mother, the arrival of the bodies marked a new stage of 
mourning and brought to an end the pain of seeing television images of victims 
lying in the undulating fields or in body bags being loaded into a train.

   "If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it," Silene 
Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in 
the crash, said before setting off for Eindhoven. "Waiting while the bodies 
were in the field and in the train was a nightmare."

   Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said about 60 coffins were 
expected, but the number wasn't immediately confirmed.

   There was confusion as well about how many of the 282 corpses which the 
rebels said they have found were on the train which arrived in Kharkiv, a 
government-controlled city, on Tuesday.

   Jan Tuinder, the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing 
with the dead, said that at least 200 bodies were aboard the train and that 
more remains could be found once the body bags are examined fully.

   Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Wednesday that Dutch 
authorities had delivered the plane's two "black boxes" to the agency's base at 
Farnborough, southern England, where information from the data and voice 
recorders will be downloaded.

   The Dutch Safety Board announced that it will lead an international team of 
24 investigators, and said unhindered access to the crash site is critical.

   "At the moment, there are no guarantees for the investigators' safety" at 
the scene, the board said, adding that it "and other parties" are working to 
get access to the site and to secure it.

   Wreckage of the Boeing 777 fell on territory controlled by pro-Russian 
separatists who have been battling the Kiev government since April. U.S. 
officials say the plane was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by 

   The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions against more Russian 
individuals but refrained from targeting entire sectors of the Russian economy 
while waiting for clearer evidence of Moscow's role in the disaster.

   Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible 
for "creating the conditions" that led crash, but they offered no evidence of 
direct Russian government involvement.

   The officials, who briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their 
names not be used, said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 
surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. 
The officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by 
separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

   The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that 
while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. 
had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet 
came from Russia.


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