Sunday 28 December 2014

Tragic passengers begin the long final journey home

Roland Oliphant

Published 22/07/2014 | 02:30

Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a forensic team visit the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. The downing of the airliner with the loss of nearly 300 lives has sharply escalated the crisis in Ukraine, and may mark a pivotal moment in international efforts to resolve a situation in which separatists in the Russian-speaking east have been fighting government forces since protesters in Kiev forced out a pro-Moscow president and Russia annexed Crimea.   REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a forensic team visit the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region. Reuters
Monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a forensic team inspect a refrigerator wagon containing the remains of victims from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez. Reuters
People surround a refrigerator wagon as monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and members of a forensic team inspect the remains of victims from the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, at a railway station in the eastern Ukrainian town of Torez. Reuters
An armed pro-Russian separatist stands guard at a railway station in Donetsk. Reuters
Armed pro-Russian separatists stand guard at a railway station in Donetsk. Reuters
Members of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry dismantle a tent as they pack belongings before leaving a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region. Reuters
Satellite image shows the primary crash site, at top right, of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 located near Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. Photo: AP / Airbus DS/AllSource Analysis
Russian President Vladimir Putin walks past his plane upon his arrival at the airport of Samara, Russia. Photo: AP
Analysis, a satellite image shows the primary crash site, at left, of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 located near Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. Photo: AP / Airbus DS/AllSource Analysis
Ukrainian troops are pictured in the eastern Ukrainian town of Konstantinovka. Photo: Reuters
Ukrainian troops are seen on a road in the eastern Ukrainian town of Konstantinovka. Reuters
A pro-Russian fighter guards the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 near the village of Hrabove, eastern Ukraine. Rebels in eastern Ukraine took control Sunday of the bodies recovered from downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. Photo: AP

It was just after 7pm that they started the long, slow journey home.

The clanking Soviet-built locomotive pulled windowless, grey refrigerator wagons out of Torez station and with it went the remains of a tragedy that is yet to be fully explained.

Four days after they were blown out of the sky over an east Ukrainian field, the bodies of the passengers of MH17 were finally moving.

But just as the investigation into this atrocity has been painfully slow, so too will be the journey back to their loved ones and the closure many desperately desire.

Under a surprise deal announced by Najib Razak, the prime minister of Malaysia, the train will carry the bodies on a 12 hour trip to Kharkiv, the second-largest city in Ukraine. There international investigators will oversee their transfer to a Dutch C-130 transport aircraft for a flight to Amsterdam, where they will be identified. Only then will the passengers of MH17 be allowed to return.

The deal was the result of frantic behind the scenes diplomacy that saw Mr Razak speak directly with Alexander Borodai, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, the rebel movement that controls the crash site.

Under the deal, Mr Borodai has volunteered to hand over two MH17's flight recorders to Malaysian officials and agreed to grant international investigators to have unfettered access to the crash site, Mr Razak said.

"Only then can the investigation into MH17 truly begin; only then can the victims be afforded the respect they deserve. We need to know what caused the plane to crash, and who was responsible for it, so that justice may be done," he said.

Just hours beforehand, it was unclear whether negotiators would be able to find a solution acceptable to all sides to get the bodies out.

In one telling episode, journalists overheard one OSCE official telling a rebel commander that the train must be allowed to leave before dark.

"That will be good for the investigators and good for you," the official was heard saying. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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