Kharkiv (Ukraine): Dutch experts on Tuesday prepared to take custody of some 280 bodies recovered from downed Malaysian flight MH17, as a train carrying the remains arrived in the government-held Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Rebels controlling the crash site released the morgue train under intense international pressure, finally allowing a great majority of the 298 crash victims to begin the long journey home.
Their remains are now to be flown to the Netherlands, which had 193 citizens on board the doomed flight and is taking the lead in investigating a disaster that has brought Ukraine`s bloody three-month conflict to the doorstep of countries as far away as Australia.
Pro-Russian separatists -- who stand accused of bringing down the aircraft, possibly with a missile supplied by Moscow -- bowed to a furious clamour for the bodies and black boxes to be handed to investigators five days after the crash.
The rebel concessions came as European foreign ministers were meeting in Brussels to weigh possible new sanctions against Russia for its perceived support of the insurgency rocking ex-Soviet Ukraine.
Both black boxes, which record cockpit activity and flight data, were handed to Malaysian officials by the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People`s Republic, Alexander Borodai, before scores of journalists.
As world leaders denounced the "shambolic" situation at the crash site, international experts finally managed Monday to inspect the bodies, kept in refrigerated train cars away from the sweltering summer heat, before they left for Kharkiv.
Borodai also announced a ceasefire within 10 kilometres of the impact site, hours after Kiev`s pro-Western authorities said they would halt all fighting in a broader zone.
The localised truce will at last allow international monitors to examine the vast area, a forensic minefield littered with poignant fragments from hundreds of destroyed lives.
Elsewhere in Ukraine`s east, fighting between government forces and rebels continued unabated with local authorities in the besieged cities of Donetsk and Lugansk reporting 10 civilians killed in 24 hours.
In a sign tensions are still running high a senior security official in Kiev claimed that Russia had massed over 40,000 soldiers along its border over the past week.