The grieving families of those killed when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky over Ukraine now have to contend with the news that 38 bodies may have been removed by Russian rebels.

International agencies battling to get access to the site have been turned away by armed rebels who at one point fired shots.

Kiev has also accused Moscow of removing bodies and tampering with evidence. They say the rebels brought the bodies to the mortuary in Donetsk, adding that Russian experts would presumably perform autopsies.

It was almost inevitable, given the on-going tensions between Russia and Ukraine, that those organising the response and investigation into the atrocity would not have an easy task.


But if the allegations are true, it only adds to the tragedy of the families affected.

Internationally mediated talks concluded with an agreement so Ukraine could identify the bodies and hand them over to relatives.

Out of respect for the grieving families, you would hope both sides would live up to the deal.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and other world leaders have demanded that an international investigation be carried out as soon as possible.

"Right now, for all we know, bodies remain strewn over fields of the eastern Ukraine and armed rebels are trampling the site," he said.

US president Barack Obama has called the deaths of nearly 300 people an "outrage".

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says New Zealand used a special sitting of the United Nations Security Council to call for a full investigation into the crash of flight MH17. Hopefully such pressure from world leaders will ensure international teams are able to access the site so the remains of those on board can be identified and returned to their families.