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HRABOVE, Ukraine — Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists agreed Saturday to set up a security zone around the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines jet to allow the orderly removal of the bodies of the 298 people killed in the shootdown of MH17 over eastern Ukraine two days ago.
The Malaysian airliner — en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with 183 passengers and 15 crew members — crashed into rebel-held territory on Thursday after being hit by what U.S. officials say was a SA-11 surface-to-air missile. There were no survivors.
Ukrainian Security Service head Valentyn Nalyvaychenko said in televised remarks Saturday that trilateral talks, involving Russia, had agreed on a 7-square-mile security zone “so that Ukraine could fulfill the most important thing — identify the bodies (and) hand them over to relatives,” Ukrinform reports.
The announcement of an agreement followed charges by Ukraine that local militia in the restive eastern Ukraine region near the Russian border had removed at least 38 bodies from the crash site near the village of Hrabove.
On a dirt road near the site Saturday morning, separatist officials from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic’s ministry of internal affairs began moving bodies in what appeared to be an unorganized and ad hoc operation.
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