Ukraine accuses pro-Russia rebels of looting crash site

GRABOVE – Ukraine on Saturday accused insurgents of destroying evidence at the crash site of a Malaysian jet whose downing in the rebel-held east has drawn global condemnation as outraged world leaders have demanded Russia's full cooperation.

Russia asked to cooperate with what is quickly becoming a monumentally challenging probe into the shooting down of a Kuala Lumpur-bound flight from Amsterdam with 298 people from nearly a dozen countries on board. Malaysia's transport minister also expressed alarm over indications that vital evidence has not been preserved in place by militias guarding the scene of the worst carnage since the crisis in Ukraine first turned deadly at the start of the year.

Rebels backed up by muscular diplomatic support from the Kremlin have shown few signs of being ready to cooperate with an investigation that could potentially blame them for attacking the Boeing 777 jet. A team of nearly 30 international monitors who returned to inspect the wreckage were met with Kalashnikov-wielding militias who gave them access to only the outskirts of the field -- its swaying sunflowers hiding dismembered remains of charred and decomposing bodies of victims whose lives were cut short on Thursday.

The grisly site has turned into the epicentre of the Cold War-style standoff between the West and Moscow over the future over the war-scarred former Soviet state. The Ukrainian government issued a furious statement declaring that the "terrorists with the support of Russia are trying to destroy proof of this international crime."

Kiev accused militia fighters of refusing to hand over "black box" data recorders and inexplicably moving 38 bodies to a morgue in the insurgent-controlled city of Donetsk. Rebel leader Oleksandr Borodai told reporters that militias had never recovered the data recorders and denied tampering with any evidence. But he also dismissed an earlier announcement by Kiev of the two sides having agreed to set up a 20-kilometre buffer zone around the expansive site where remains of flight MH17 hit the ground.

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Aaj Kal