Bodies from the MH17 Crash Sit in Limbo

by Sarah Hedgecock

Much of the investigation into the MH17 crash in Ukraine remains shrouded in mystery, including the fate of the reported 196 bodies held in refrigerated train cars by separatist groups. The group responsible reportedly forced emergency workers to surrender the bodies – over half of the 298 dead – and put them on the train bound for rebel-held Torez, nine miles from the crash site. The rebel leader in the area, Aleksander Borodai, claimed Sunday that the loaded trains would remain at the station there until the arrival of international officials. It isn't clear where the train and its cargo will go from there.

On Saturday, the rebels were accused of stealing 38 bodies from the crash site for examination by Russian-affiliated doctors and blocking officials from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) from inspecting the scene. By Sunday, though, things had changed: the investigation-blocking local militia had been removed along with the bodies, allowing the OSCE team through to examine what is left of the crash site and look for parts of human remains. Still, it's important to note that this is just a fist step, as the OSCE isn't a crash investigation group but only an observer. An official, independent international investigation into the extremely suspicious crash has yet to begin.

Adding to suspicion the world over are the actions of the local separatists. By Sunday the group was more cooperative than it had been, but its plans were still shrouded in mystery, leading many world leaders to accuse Russia and the Ukrainian separatists of a deliberate cover-up. U.S. officials said in a statement on Sunday that Russia likely supplied separatists in Ukraine with the missile that is believed to have downed the plane. Meanwhile, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond accused Russians of "obfuscation and obstruction" of the investigation, while that country's Prime Minister David Cameron warned, "Russia risks becoming a pariah state if it does not behave properly." Ukrainian officials are most explicit of all. That country's Security Council spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said at a news conference, "The terrorists are doing everything to hide the evidence of the involvement of Russian missiles in the shooting down of that airliner."

Perhaps those suspicions are why the separatists appear to have ceded some ground in the investigation. Rebel leader Borodai revealed on Sunday that his group found the black boxes from the downed flight. The equipment, which was taken to a rebel stronghold in Donetsk, will now be turned over to the U.N.-affiliated International Civil Aviation Administration.