MH17: Australian experts to join body identification team

International forensic experts and members of the OSCE mission speak to the media near the crash site in Ukraine. Photo / AP
International forensic experts and members of the OSCE mission speak to the media near the crash site in Ukraine. Photo / AP

Australian officials are set to start the grim task of identifying the victims of the MH17 crash, backed by a UN Security Council resolution endorsing full international co-operation.

Overnight a refrigerated train carrying the remains of Australian and other victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight left a rebel-controlled town in eastern Ukraine bound for the country's second biggest city Kharkiv where it will be met by senior Australian officials.

The bodies are then to be flown almost immediately to the Netherlands where an international team, including forensic experts from Australia, will identify the dead.

Malaysian investigators also now have two black boxes from the flight which will shed light on cockpit conversation and flight data in MH17's final moments.

A pro-Russian fighter places a flight data recorder on a table while handing it to Malaysian representatives.

Photo / AP

Up to 39 Australian citizens and residents were among the nearly 300 people killed when MH17 was downed, likely by a missile fired by Russian-backed separatists.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the Security Council's unanimous adoption of the Australian-authored resolution sounded a warning to the pro-Russian separatists not to further tamper with the site or slow the investigation.

"What we have witnessed over the last five days - the contamination of the site, the removal of bodies, the removal of evidence, the trampling both of bodies and parts of the plane - could have all been prevented," she said, taking aim at Russian authorities.

The resolution also condemned the attack and extended the international community's deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims.

"We owe it to the families to find answers," Ms Bishop said.

A ceasefire has been declared within a 10km radius of the crash site. Ukraine's deputy prime minister Volodymyr Groysman said all 298 deceased passengers had been loaded onto the train bound for government-controlled Kharkiv.

OSCE mission deputy head Alexander Hug speaks to a member of Netherlands' forensic team on a train loaded with bodies in Torez. Photo / AP

Three Dutch experts are accompanying the bodies on the train, which is expected to arrive on Tuesday, Australia time.

The transfer to Dutch military aircraft will be observed by Australia's ambassador to Ukraine, Jean Dunn, and a defence attache from London.

Two other Australian consular officials are then expected to travel on the Dutch C130 Hercules to Amsterdam.

Watch: Videographic: Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash

The plane will be greeted there by Australia's ambassador to the Netherlands, Neil Mules, and a defence attache from The Hague.

In Holland, forensic experts from Australia will assist in the identification process. A number are already on the ground while many more are understood to be en route.

AAP understands Mr Abbott's special envoy in Ukraine, retired Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, met with the Ukrainian president soon before the train left Torez.

He's also held discussions with Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) chief monitor Ertugrul Apakan regarding when Australian experts may be able to access the crash site.

Meanwhile, Families of Australians killed in the MH17 disaster will be sent official condolence messages from the prime minister and his cabinet.

Mr Tony Abbott signed a condolence book for the victims on behalf of the whole country on Tuesday.

"Twenty-three million Australians share the sadness of those who mourn," he wrote.

Governor-General Peter Cosgrove, Speaker Bronwyn Bishop, Senate president Stephen Parry, most cabinet ministers, military chiefs and ambassadors from all the countries affected by the crash also signed during the ceremony at Parliament House in Canberra.

"In our heart is pain, in our mind is a determination to see justice done," Mrs Bishop said. The world had made it clear it would not tolerate such an act of brutality, she said.

About 200 school children and other visitors to Parliament House joined in a minute's silence before defence force Anglican Bishop Ian Lambert led the Lord's Prayer.


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