MH17 Victims' Bodies Seized by Rebels Angers World; UN Backs Australia Resolution

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By Reissa Su | July 22, 2014 12:30 PM EST

New fighting erupted at the rebel centre of Donetsk on July 21 near the railway station, with separatists describing the incident as the government's attempt to take back the city. 

REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev
A member of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry walks near parts of the wreckage at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: DISASTER POLITICS TRANSPORT)

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According to reports, the government in Kiev denied claims of sending an army contingent to Donetsk, the Ukrainian city captured by rebels in April. However, it said small and "self-organised pro-Ukrainian groups" were fighting the separatists in the rebel stronghold.

The gunfight killed five people and injured 12 others. Local officials said Dontesk is an industrial city that had 1 million people before many of them moved away when the fighting in the region began.

Four days after the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot down from the sky about 60 kilometres or 37 miles away from Donetsk, the rebels have become "jumpy." Reports said a rebel leader had initially reported the shooting at the railway station. When rebels heard the news, dozens had immediately boarded mini buses to join the battle.

Reports said the gunfire had eased just as quickly as the fighting began. The railway station's control tower had broken windows, while the train service was disrupted by late afternoon.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to take back the city of Donetsk in its "anti-terrorist operation" against the pro-Russian separatists. The president has instructed the military not to open fire within the 40 km vicinity of the M17 crash site which reports said does not cover Donetsk. 

According to an AP report, pro-Russian rebels had seized the 196 bodies in the MH17 crash site. Emergency workers were forced to hand over the bodies on July 20 at gunpoint. Officials in Ukraine said the separatists had placed the MH17 victims' bodies in refrigerated trains heading to an unknown location.

The report said the Emergency Ministry workers were forced to surrender custody of the bodies. Observers and political analysts said rebel forces may be attempting a cover-up or preventing an impartial investigation.

The United Nations Security Council has backed Australia's draft resolution condemning the attack on the civilian aircraft. Australia's Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop slammed the "grotesque violations" at the MH17 crash site.

Reports said Russia had backed the resolution at the last minute after some changes were made. Instead of the document saying the incident was a "shooting down" of MH17, the amended text now reads "the downing" of the Malaysian aircraft.

The resolution will set the motion for an independent and international investigation into the MH17 crash. It also brings more pressure on Moscow and President Vladimir Putin to use its influence over the rebels. 

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(Photo: REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev / )
A member of the Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry walks near parts of the wreckage at a crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 21, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: DISASTER POLITICS TRANSPORT)
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