KHARKIV, Ukraine — Bodies of those killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash reached Ukrainian government-controlled territory Tuesday, leaving a war zone en route to the Netherlands after delays and haphazard treatment that put pressure on European foreign ministers to impose tougher economic sanctions on Russia.
The crash site itself, in farmland held by the pro-Russian separatists whom the West accuse of shooting down the plane, remained unsecured five days after the disaster.
The crash last week in eastern Ukraine has heightened diplomatic tensions over the conflict in Ukraine and focused anger at Russia, from Washington to EU headquarters in Brussels to protesters in Malaysia. But Russian President Vladimir Putin remained combative Tuesday, lashing out at Ukraine's military Tuesday for trying to dislodge the rebels.
After a 17-hour journey from the town of Torez in rebel territory, the train carrying the bodies pulled into a station in Kharkiv, a government-controlled city where Ukrainian authorities have set up their crash investigation center. The train gave a low-pitched blast from its horn as the grey corrugated refrigerator cars slowly rolled through weed-choked tracks onto the grounds of a factory where the bodies were being received.
Government spokesman Oleksander Kharchenko said Ukraine "will do our best" to send the bodies to the Netherlands on Tuesday. Of the 298 people who died aboard the Amsterdam-to-Kuala Lumpur flight, 193 were Dutch citizens.
But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says his government aims to have the first bodies returned Wednesday. "It is our aim — and at the moment our expectation — that sometime tomorrow the first plane carrying victims will leave for Eindhoven," he said.