Crash victims’ remains reach Ukraine-held city

Kharkiv, Ukraine (AP) — The remains of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines crash arrived in territory held by the Ukrainian government on Tuesday on their way to the Netherlands, after delays and haphazard treatment of the bodies that put pressure on European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia.

The crash site itself, in farmland held by the pro-Russian separatists whom the West accuses of shooting down the plane, remained unsecured five days after the disaster — another source of frustration for officials around the world eager to establish the facts of the case.

After a 17-hour journey from the town of Torez in rebel territory, the train carrying the bodies pulled into a station in Kharkiv, a government-controlled city where Ukrainian authorities have set up their crash investigation centre. The train gave a low-pitched blast from its horn as the grey corrugated refrigerator cars slowly rolled through weed-choked tracks onto the grounds of a factory where the bodies were being received.

Government spokesman Oleksander Kharchenko said Ukraine “will do our best” to send the bodies to the Netherlands on Tuesday. Of the 298 people who died aboard the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight, 193 were Dutch citizens.

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his government aims to have the first bodies returned on Wednesday. “It is our aim — and at the moment our expectation — that sometime tomorrow the first plane carrying victims will leave for Eindhoven,” he said.

Rutte said that the identification of some bodies will be quick. But he has warned grieving families of victims of Thursday’s crash that the identification of some others could take “weeks or even months.”

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