Separatist leader Alexander Borodai has promised militants who recovered the plane’s black boxes will hand them over to the relevant authorities.
The revelation is expected to heighten concerns that key evidence from the site of the crash was being destroyed by Mr Borodai’s forces.
But the self-proclaimed Prime Minister of the Ukraine’s ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ yesterday vowed to give the black box devices, which provide flight information as well as a recording of conversation between the pilot and co-pilot, to the International Civil Aviation Organisation.
Rebels have also been accused of forcing emergency workers to hand over the bodies of 196 of the 298 passengers and crew who perished when the aircraft was apparently shot down over disputed territory in eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
Mr Borodai insisted bodies had been removed in a ‘humane’ manner and were would remain in refrigerated containers at a train station in the town of Torez until the arrival of an international aviation delegation.
It comes as world leaders agreed to impose tougher sanctions on Russian president Vladmir Putin and his cronies.
Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande said that the EU is poised to introduce stringent penalties on Russia amid concerns over Mr Putin’s administration and support for the armed rebels thought to be under Moscow’s influence.
Speaking at the weekend, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond admitted London was likely to be hit by restrictions on the flow of Russian money, but insisted other European countries would also have to take some of the pain of a more punitive sanctions regime.
Mr Hammond will meet with counterparts from across the European Union tomorrow to discuss the measures, which would build on existing sanctions imposed as a result of Russia’s involvement in the crisis in Ukraine.
He said: “What we need to do now is use the sense of shock, the sense of outrage, to galvanise opinion behind a more robust stance. We have tools, we have levers which we can apply to Russia. We can inflict damage on the Russian economy.
“If they continue to allow arms to pass across the border, provide the kind of support they have been to the rebels... there will be stiffer and longer lasting consequences.”
Further details of British victims came to light as investigators and emergency workers sifted through the wreckage site at the weekend. The death toll for passengers who were carrying British passports now stands at 10.
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