© 2024 WXPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

International Observers Work To Keep Tabs On Site Of Malaysia Jet Crash


Secretary of State John Kerry spent a lot of time on TV yesterday, laying out what he says is extraordinary circumstantial evidence that rebels in Eastern Ukraine shot down the Malaysia Airlines jetliner. Kerry said on NBC's "Meet The Press" they did it with Russian help.


SECRETARY OF STATE JOHN KERRY: It is clear that Russia supports the separatists, supplies the separatists, encourages the separatists, trains the separatists and Russia needs to step up and make a difference here.

INSKEEP: Now, at the crash site in Eastern Ukraine, international observers are trying to keep tabs on the rebel's treatment of victim's bodies and potential evidence. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Donetsk.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: At one of the main debris sites, local search and rescue men in blue overalls stoop over the blackened ground, lifting barely recognizable objects from the wreckage and placing them in body bags. The rebels control this area and a pair of them stand guard nearby. The supervisor of the search team from Donetsk won't give his name, because he's not supposed to speak to reporters.

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken).

UNIDENTIFIED TRANSLATOR: They just started. He is not sure how many bodies exactly belong to persons. But here's the bags and that's all they found.

FLINTOFF: What he means, the translator explains, is that searchers can't be sure which parts belong to which bodies. And what do the smaller bags contain? Fragments, he says, fragments. This portion of the plane came down in a farmer's field on the edge of a village and some of the villagers look on from across the road. Nadezhda is a pensioner who's lived nearly 70 years in the village. She didn't want to give her full name, because she fears there might be repercussions from one side or the other. She says she was sitting on a bench with neighbors when the wreckage crashed from the sky.

NADEZHDA: (Through translator) And they saw something big from the sky start to fall up. It was on the left, on the right, on the left, on the right and like crashed on the ground. And they've seen the fires, some pieces.

FLINTOFF: Nadezhda says that some men from the village went out to see what happened and reported that there were bodies everywhere. She didn't go to look then, but she seemed compelled to watch from a distance now. Around midday, some members of the observer team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrive to examine the crash site. They've been trying to see more of this area for the past two days but said that rebels limited their movements. This time, they seem to have unhindered access. Later, leaders of the team said that rebels had removed most of the bagged bodies and moved them to a town, not far from the crash site. Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the team, said they went to that town and were granted access to three refrigerated railway cars, where the body bags are being stored.

MICHAEL BOCIURKIW: Now, the body bags were tagged with a numbering system. We were not able to count the body bags. And it's important to point out that entering and having the body backs would require special protective equipment.

FLINTOFF: At a news conference earlier in the day, rebel leader Aleksander Borodai confirmed that the bodies had been removed and said they would remain where they are until international experts come to examine them. He also said that rebels have control of some items, believed to be the voice and data recorders from the plane. The treatment of the bodies stirred outrage in the Netherlands, which was home to many of the passengers. The Netherland's prime minister demanded that the remains be transferred to Ukrainian government control as soon as possible. The next step will be to figure out how to work with the rebels to ensure safety for the experts who'll to be coming to examine the crash site. Meanwhile, scores of bodies have not been found and their fate remains unknown. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Donetsk. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Up North Updates
* indicates required