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Updated: Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:34:08 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17: Train with bodies leaves crash area



A pro-Russian rebel speaks on the phone as a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers departs the station in Torez, eastern Ukraine, 15 kilometers (© 9 miles)

A pro-Russian rebel speaks on the phone as a refrigerated train loaded with bodies of the passengers departs the station in Torez, eastern Ukraine, 15 kilometers (9 miles) from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, Monday, July 21, 2014. Another 21 bodies have been found in the sprawling fields of east Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was downed last week, killing all 298 people aboard. International indignation over the incident has grown as investigators still only have limited access to the crash site and it remains unclear when and where the victims' bodies will be transported. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda) Vadim Ghirda/AP

A refrigerated train carrying the bodies of many of the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 plane disaster has pulled away from a rebel-held town in Eastern Ukraine.

The train left Monday from the town of Torez — about 15 kilometres from the site of the downed plane.

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It is headed for the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, and from there, the victims' remains will be flown to Amsterdam.

At a press conference Monday afternoon, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had reached an agreement with Ukrainian rebel leader Alexander Borodai that will allow international investigators "safe access" to the crash site.

He also said the rebels have agreed to hand over two black boxes from the Boeing 777 to Malaysian authorities on Monday evening.

"Only then can the investigation into MH17 truly begin. Only then can the victims be afforded the respect they deserve," Razak said at a news conference near Kuala Lumpur. 

"We need to know what caused the plane to crash and who was responsible for it, so that justice can be done."

Delayed access to site frustrates nations

Razak said the agreement in "good faith" must now be followed by action in order to ensure the victims' bodies are handled with respect.

"For the families, nothing can undo this damage,” he said. “The lives taken cannot be given back. The dignity lost can’t be regained. My heart reaches out to those whose loved ones were taken on MH17.”

The chaotic effort to recover the victims' remains had taken a worrying turn earlier Monday when the power went out in the refrigerated train holding more than 200 bodies.

The reluctance by pro-Russia separatists who control the region where the plane crashed Thursday to allow international observers and investigators to examine the wreckage and seal off the site have fanned widespread international outrage, especially from the nations whose citizens were aboard the plane.

Four days after the plane went down, international investigators still had only limited access to the crash site in Eastern Ukraine.

Fresh fighting marked by explosions in Donetsk — about 70 kilometres from where the train is in the town of Torez— added to the tension Monday.

"International investigators say they won't come here unless they are guaranteed safe passage," the CBC's Susan Ormiston reported from the crash site.

A team of Dutch forensic experts and monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) inspected the bodies Monday, Ormiston reported, and said they were still in good condition.

The scene remains "sobering," Ormiston said, with long prairie-like fields still strewn with debris from the downed plane, including wallets, handbags and even a child's note about the airplane food.

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Emergency workers piled 21 more black body bags from the blackened crash site by the side of the road Monday in Grabovo. That brought the total found to 272 of the 298 passengers and crew killed in the tragedy, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Explosions shake Donetsk

In Donetsk, people fled as minibuses brought dozens of rebels into the city centre. The rebels said Ukrainian forces were trying to force them out, days after the Malaysian airliner was brought down about 60 kilometres away.

"It is dangerous near the railway station!" the Donetsk city council said in a statement on its website, asking residents in the area to stay indoors.

It said a nine-storey house had been damaged in the shelling and that transport had been halted in the area.

"In the morning there were explosions. People are extremely worried," said a local resident who gave her name as Natalya.

Donetsk is at the heart of a rebel uprising against rule by Kyiv, and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to retake the city as part of what his government calls an "anti-terrorist operation" against the separatists.

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