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Published: Sunday July 20, 2014 MYT 3:50:00 PM
Updated: Sunday July 20, 2014 MYT 4:26:22 PM

MH17 crash: Almost 200 bodies found, says Ukraine

PETALING JAYA: A search led by the Ukrainian government has so far found 196 bodies at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, according to the Ukrainian State Emergency Service (SES) on Sunday.

The SES said 380 staff were taking part in the search that stretches across 34 sq km of eastern Ukraine.

However, it said that the search was being complicated by separatists at the site who were hindering the work of SES units. 

Earlier, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said it had doubts over the number of bodies recovered from the downed MH17 or where they were taken or who moved them. 

Michael Bociurkiw told CNN that the group went to the crash site in a remote section of eastern Ukraine on Saturday and saw men moving an unknown number of body bags.

Bociurkiw said that it is hard to get reliable information because several groups of pro-Russian separatists - some of them masked - control the area, he said.

"But there doesn't seem to be one commander in charge," he said.

Three air crash investigators from Ukraine accompanied the OSCE observers but they didn't have much time to do their work, he said.

"They need a lot more time and a lot more freedom of access," Bociurkiw said.

Bociurkiw told the Ukraine Media Crisis Center on Saturday that the OSCE saw a lot of security and people with weapons present at the crash site.

“Our main purpose is to collect the facts to share them with the participating OSCE states and to report them to the media. We are looking at security of the perimeter of the crash site, the condition and status of the debris, the bodies and personal belongings," he said.

More world powers have deplored the situation and asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to use his influence on the separatists.

"Yesterday (Friday), the (OSCE) monitors were allowed only 75 minutes at the site," the US State Department said in a statement released Saturday night.

"Today, they were allowed less than three hours.

"The site is not secure, and there are multiple reports of bodies being removed, parts of the plane and other debris being hauled away, and potential evidence tampered with. This is unacceptable and an affront to all those who lost loved ones and to the dignity of the victims."

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote a Sunday Times op-ed piece urging Putin to somehow make the crash site more accessible and calm the strife between Ukraine and the separatists.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke out as well.

"I want to see results in the form of unimpeded access and rapid recovery," Rutte said at a press briefing.

Rutte also called images of people rummaging through the debris and belongings of victims "downright disgusting."

MH17 disappeared from radar screens in eastern Ukraine at around 1415 GMT on Thursday, hours after taking off from Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport bound for Kuala Lumpur.

The Boeing 777 is believed to have been shot down 50km from the Ukraine-Russia border.

All 298 passengers and crew on board, including 44 Malaysians, are believed to have perished.


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