July 21, 2014 / 5:15 PM / 3 years ago

UPDATE 1-Malaysia, Ukraine separatists agree on MH17 victims retrieval - PM

KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Reuters) - Malaysia has reached an agreement with Aleksander Borodai, leader of the separatist group in eastern Ukraine, to retrieve the bodies of the victims of MH17, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Tuesday.

They have also reached an agreement to hand over the two black boxes from the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, which crashed in Ukraine on 17 July with 298 people on board, Razak told a news conference.

Independent international investigators have also been guaranteed safe access to the crash site to begin a full investigation, he said.

“In recent days, we have been working behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site. That contact has now been made,” Razak said in a televised speech.

“Under difficult and fluid circumstances, we have been discussing the problems that have occupied us all: securing vital evidence from the aircraft, launching an independent investigation, and above all recovering the remains of those who lost their lives.”

Under the agreement, the remains of 282 people will be moved by train from Torez to Kharkiv. There, they will be handed over to representatives from the Netherlands. Razak did not say what had happened to the remaining bodies.

The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules military aircraft, together with six members of the Malaysian team who will be on the train.

After forensic work has been completed, the remains of Malaysian citizens will then be flown to Malaysia.

Razak added that at 9 pm Ukraine time on Monday, the two black boxes from the aircraft will be handed over to a Malaysian team in Donetsk.

Finally, international investigators will be guaranteed safe access to the crash site and allowed to start an investigation, he said.

“I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed,” said Razak.

“There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith. Mr Borodai and his people have so far given their co-operation.”

Once this is done, the investigation can “truly begin”, he added so that “justice may be done”.

“In recent days, there were times I wanted to give greater voice to the anger and grief that the Malaysian people feel. And that I feel. But sometimes, we must work quietly in the service of a better outcome,” said Razak. (Editing by Larry King)

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