Australian experts will join a team of international investigators who will travel to the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman on Saturday met with ambassadors from countries affected by the crash and also relevant investigation experts.
“We are logistically ready to take all the bodies,” Mr Groysman said through a translator.
“We have all necessary equipment to transfer the bodies but we cannot reach that area to take those bodies.”
At least 36 Australian citizens and permanent residents perished when Malaysia Airlines flight 17 was brought down in rebel-held east Ukraine on Thursday.
Mr Groysman confirmed an Australian ambassador participated in Saturday’s talks.
“We are completely open and ready to invite and to include Australian experts and we are working together,” he told reporters afterwards.
It’s understood Australia’s ambassador to Poland, Jean Dunn, has recently arrived in Kiev.
Canberra has also dispatched six foreign affairs officers, a five-member emergency response team and a number of federal police investigators.
Mr Groysman said his government had a plane ready to deliver the relevant professionals to the crash site but “we didn’t receive a guarantee from the Russian federation as to the security of people who will work on the site”.
The international team will include representatives from, among other countries, the Netherlands, Malaysia and the US, including the US National Transportation Safety Board.
So far 192 bodies have been located on the ground out of the almost 300 passengers on board flight MH17.
Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said 100 rescue workers were on site but under the control of 800 to 900 heavily-armed gunmen.
“Rescue teams have to follow their orders under the guns,” he said.
“We ask them give the bodies of innocent people to us. Those bodies should be delivered to their families, to their countries. This is the issue number one for us.”
Mr Groysman said when victims’ relatives arrived in Kiev they would be put up in hotels. A centre has been established at the international airport to provide next of kin with immediate visas.
Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin on Saturday said the Ukrainian government had been talking to the “terrorists”, often via video-conference calls, to try and secure unhindered access.
“Unfortunately it was extremely difficult yesterday and it’s difficult today,” he said.
“What we need now is international pressure also on Russia, because Russia has influence on these terrorists to provide clear and unhindered access to the place of the crash.”
Mr Klimkin was asked if counties that had suffered losses should follow Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s lead and be more openly critical of Russia.
“It’s up to them to decide in what way they should express their criticism,” he replied.
“(However) it’s up to the international community to put relevant pressure on Russia because the main backing of the terrorists and the majority of the terrorist leaders are Russians.”
The foreign minister insisted it was also critical to maintain pressure for a bilateral ceasefire without pre-conditions.
Security spokesman Andriy Lysenko on Saturday accused the separatists of destroying evidence and taking remnants of the plane to Russia.
Speaking through a translator, he said rebels had forced international observers to leave the site so they could remove almost 40 bodies to Donetsk.
“According to the information we have that was done in order to find in the bodies of victims parts of missile which shot down the plane.
He said bandits had “taken valuables from bodies and used credit cards of victims of the tragedy”.
Mr Klimkin confirmed there was on Friday “an appalling case of dragging away a number of bodies, just on a lorry”.
“For me it’s going beyond any sort of moral value and consideration.”