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updated: 7/19/2014 10:07 AM

Tensions mount over Ukraine crash as bodies moved at site

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  • A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in rebel-held territory -- a charge the rebels denied.

      A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, July 19, 2014. Ukraine accused Russia on Saturday of helping separatist rebels destroy evidence at the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane shot down in rebel-held territory -- a charge the rebels denied.
    Associated Press

 
Bloomberg News

July 19 -- Tensions mounted over the Malaysia Airlines jet crash in eastern Ukraine as investigators struggled to get control of the site and foreign governments expressed anger at the chaos on the ground.

As the administration in Kiev demanded that pro-Russian rebels give unfettered access to the area, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the atmosphere at the site is "surreal."

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"There is a lot of security here, with many heavily armed people," spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said in a phone briefing from the site near Torez, about 30 kilometers (19 miles) from the Russian border. The 24-member OSCE team saw unidentified people moving bodies to the side of the road, he said.

The crash, which killed all 298 on board, is deepening an international crisis that was sparked by Russia's annexation of Crimea earlier this year and was already Europe's worse since the Cold War ended. President Barack Obama yesterday said the plane was brought down by a missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian insurgents and that President Vladimir Putin is refusing to "de-escalate" the situation.

Putin response

Ukraine accuses of Russia of supplying the missile, while Putin blames the Kiev government, saying the crash wouldn't have happened had it not fomented the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

The disaster occurred hours after the U.S. and the European Union imposed further sanctions on Putin. A French official familiar with the situation said proof that Putin supporters fired the missile probably would force the Russian president to dissociate himself from the insurgents or even actively tell them to stop.

Malaysia, which is suffering its second plane tragedy in four months, is sending its transport minister to Kiev.

"Any action that can prevent us from learning about the truth of MH17 cannot be tolerated," Liow Tiong Lai told reporters at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Australia's foreign minister will go to New York to seek a binding United Nations resolution on an independent probe.

At the crash site, chaos still dominates. Yesterday, OSCE workers were given only 70 minutes to tour the site during an inspection that was interrupted by masked rebels shooting weapons into the air, spokesmen for the Vienna-based organization said.

Black boxes missing

Bociurkiw said today that his team was trying to determine the identities of the people moving the remains and who they represent. He said the jet's black boxes still haven't been found. The Ukraine government said rebels have taken 38 bodies to Donetsk, the regional capital, to conduct their own autopsies.

At the Dutch embassy in Kiev, people left thousands of flowers, candles and toys to remember the travelers from the Netherlands who died in the crash. The missile strike knocked the Boeing Co. 777, on flight 17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, from the sky within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of the Russian border.

The majority of the passengers -- at least 192 -- were from the Netherlands, including a Dutch senator who died with his wife and daughter, and a University of Amsterdam academic, who worked to bring cheaper AIDS drugs to Africa.

"I feel very sorry for all these innocent people who were killed, and for the children," said Halyna Vituk, 64, as she broke into tears, dressed all in white and carrying sunflowers and a candle at the embassy in Kiev. "Putin should bear all the responsibility. And of course, the separatists. But they will not shoot without his order."

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