The Associated Press reported on Sunday that pro-Russian rebels forced emergency works to surrender custody of 196 bodies recovered from the wreckage of the downed Malaysian airliner at gunpoint. Ukrainian officials and monitors said on Sunday that militants loaded the bodies onto refrigerated train cars and sent them off to an unknown location.
“Ukraine’s Emergency Ministry said its workers were laboring under duress and forced to hand over the bodies,” the AP reported.
Nataliya Khuruzhaya, a duty officer at the train station in Torez, 9 miles from the crash site, said she saw emergency workers loading plane victims’ bodies Sunday morning into five sealed, refrigerated train cars. Alexander Pilyushny, an emergency worker combing the crash site for body parts Sunday morning, told the AP the he and other workers had no choice but to hand the bodies over to the rebels. “They are armed and we are not,” Pilyushny said. “The militiamen came, put the bodies onto the trucks and took them away.”
This report is one of several indicating that rebel forces are preventing an impartial investigation into the plane crash from taking place. On Sunday, a pro-Russian separatist leader, Alexander Borodai, confirmed that rebel forces had recovered the plane’s black boxes, as several prior reports indicated, but that he planned to hand them over to an international aviation forensic organization.