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Bodies, black boxes, to be returned

A train carrying the bodies of those killed in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash had left the railway station in the rebel-held town of Torez in eastern Ukraine yesterday, reported AFP.

Ukrainian officials said the refrigerated wagons will head to the government-controlled city of Kharkiv, where international experts were waiting.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman had earlier confirmed that search operations had ended at the crash site.

"(A total of) 282 bodies and 87 fragments belonging to the other 16 bodies of the innocent victims were found at the site," he told a press conference.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement late last night that the bodies would then be flown to Amsterdam in the Netherlands on a Dutch C130 military plane. They will be accompanied by members of a Malaysian and Dutch recovery team.

He added that the black boxes of the plane, which were allegedly seized by pro-Russia insurgents, would later be handed over to a three-man Malaysian investigation team.

An agreement has also been reached to allow a team of international investigators access to the crash site, Mr Najib added.

Earlier yesterday, a Ukrainian government committee said the train, where the remains of the victims had been placed, was stuck in Torez because "terrorists were blocking its exit".

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday the downing of the Malaysian airliner in east Ukraine must not be used for political ends and urged separatists to allow international experts access to the crash site.

SECURITY

"Everything must be done to guarantee the security of international experts at the site of the tragedy," Mr Putin, wearing a dark suit and a black tie, said in televised comments.

He reiterated his belief that the incident would not have happened if Ukrainian government forces had not ended a truce, resuming a military campaign against the pro-Russian separatists who have risen up in eastern Ukraine.

"However nobody should - and no one has the right to - use this tragedy to achieve selfish political ends. Such events should not divide people, but unite them," he said.