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Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:38:10 +0000
(KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia) -- The two black boxes from the downed Malaysia Airlines plane that left 298 people dead were handed over Monday to Malaysian officials.
News media looked on as the transfer of the boxes was made late Monday. Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said independent investigators will be given safe access to the debris site.
"In recent days, we have been working behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site," Razak said. "That contact has now been made. Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: Securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives."
In a statement, Razak said he had spoken "to Alexander Borodai, who is in command of the region where the tragedy occurred."
Razak said that the bodies of the 282 people recovered, currently in the Ukrainian city of Torez, will "be moved" by train to Kiev, where Dutch officials will take them.
"The train will depart this evening...and will be accompanied by six Malaysian members of the recovery team," he added. "The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, together with the Malaysian team. Following any necessary forensic work, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown home to Malaysia."
"I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," Razak added. "There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr Borodai and his people have so far given their co-operation."
Moments before Razak's announcement, President Obama had called on Russian President Vladimir Putin "to compel" Russian-backed separatists to stop interfering with the probe.
Obama, speaking from the South Lawn of the White House, said Russian-backed separatists needed to allow investigators to recover bodies. He said they had previously fired their weapons in the air when investigators approached the scene and have tampered with evidence.
"Russia, and President Putin in particular, has a direct responsibility to compel them to cooperate with the investigation," Obama said.
The president also said that if Russia continued to support violence against the Ukrainian people, it would face further isolation from the international community. He said he hopes to see the dispute settled diplomatically.
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