MH17 plane crash: Train with bodies leaves Ukraine station

Pro-Russian rebel near train carrying plane crash bodies, Torez, Ukraine (21 July) Image copyright AP
Image caption The train carrying the bodies left Torez late on Monday

Pro-Russian rebels have allowed bodies from the Malaysia Airlines plane crash to be taken to the city of Kharkiv.

Malaysia's PM said the separatists had also agreed to hand over the "black box" flight recorders of flight MH17.

The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution demanding access to the crash site. Western nations say the rebels shot down the plane on 17 July, killing all 298 people on board.

Meanwhile, the main rebel-held city of Donetsk has seen heavy clashes.

Eyewitnesses say there is violence near the city's airport and the railway station.

At the scene: The BBC's Fergal Keane in Donetsk

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Media caption"People are panicking" because of heavy fighting in Donetsk, reports Fergal Keane

For three hours close to the railway station I watched as several hundred civilians fled past.

There was shelling throughout the morning, some from Grad rockets but also mortar fire and intermittent sniper shots.

Most of this seemed to be coming from the direction of villages on the road between the airport and the railway station.

It was impossible to be sure who was firing or in which direction. However we saw the aftermath of a rocket strike in the playground of an apartment complex close to the station - a rebel controlled area.

Next to the crater lay a pool of blood, a man's shoes and a pair of glasses.

Donetsk clashes hamper MH17 recovery

At least three civilians were reported killed, and one multi-storey building was seen on fire. Residents are fleeing, according to BBC correspondents in the area.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Ukrainian troops have been pressing separatists forces back
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption At least three civilians were reportedly killed during Monday's fighting in Donetsk

'Safe access'

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak announced he had received assurances from Alexander Borodai, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, that the remains of 282 passengers would be moved by train to Kharkiv and handed over to international investigators.

Mr Najib did not clarify what would happen with the remaining bodies.

He said the rebels had also agreed to hand over two "black-box" flight-data recorders recovered from the crash site to a Malaysian team, and that independent international experts would "be guaranteed safe access" to the site to begin their investigation.

The train's departure comes after tough negotiations between the international community and the separatists, who had been accused of hampering access to the crash site.

Earlier on Monday, three Dutch experts became the first international investigators to examine the bodies of the victims in the carriages in Torez, some 15km away from the crash site.

The team said the storage of the bodies had been "of good quality".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dutch investigators became the first to be allowed to examine the bodies
Image copyright AP
Image caption Many of the bodies had been exposed to summer heat
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption In Rotterdam, friends of two restaurant owners who were on Flight MH17, took part in a silent march

The investigators also later visited the area where the Boeing 777 went down after being reportedly hit by a missile.

Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe have been at the accident site, but their access to the wreckage was limited by the rebels.

There has been international outcry over the way rebels have handled the situation, leaving passengers' remains exposed to summer heat and allowing untrained volunteers to comb through the area.

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Media captionPeter van Vliet, the leader of a Dutch forensics team: "I think they did a hell of a job in a hell of a place"

President Barack Obama earlier accused the rebels of tampering with potential evidence and called for the international experts to be granted "immediate and full" access to the site.

He also warned that Russia would "only further isolate itself" if it failed to compel the separatists to co-operate.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said there was strong evidence that pro-Russian separatists shot down the plane with an anti-aircraft system known as Buk.

Russia on Monday again denied allegations that it had supplied such missiles or "any other weapons" to the rebels.

The defence ministry said a Ukrainian military plane had flown within firing range of the airliner just before it came down, but Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has rejected the claim.