Hrabove, July 20 (AP) -Separatist rebels have taken away all the 196 bodies that workers recovered from the Malaysian Airlines plane crash site to an unknown location, Ukraine's emergency services said Sunday.
Associated Press journalists saw the rebels putting bagged bodies onto trucks at the crash site Saturday in eastern Ukraine and driving them away. On Sunday, AP journalists saw no bodies at the crash site and emergency workers were searching the sprawling area only for body parts.
Ukrainian spokeswoman Nataliya Bystro said Sunday that the emergency workers had been laboring under duress and were forced to give the bodies to the armed rebels.
"Where they took the bodies - we don't know," Bystro told The Associated Press.
Alexander Pilyushny, an emergency worker combing the site for body parts on Sunday morning, told the AP it took the rebels several hours on Saturday to take away the bodies.
Pilyushny said he and others had no choice but than to give the bodies to the rebels because "they are armed, and we are not."
"The rebels came, put the bodies onto the trucks and took them away somewhere," Pilyushny said.
Neither Bystro nor Pilyushny could explain what happened to the 102 bodies that have not yet been found.
Earlier, the Ukraine government said it had reached a preliminary deal with the pro-Russia separatists who control the plane crash site to remove the bodies.
News reports of how the bodies have been decaying for days in the summer sun have ignited outrage worldwide, especially from the Netherlands, home to over half the 298 victims.
Ukraine and the separatists accuse each other of firing a surface-to-air missile Thursday at Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur some 33,000 feet (10,000 meters) above the battlefields of eastern Ukraine. Both deny the charge.
The U.S. has pointed blame at the separatists, saying Washington believes the jetliner was probably downed by an SA-11 missile from rebel-held territory and "we cannot rule out technical assistance from Russian personnel."