KUALA LUMPUR - The remains of Flight MH17 victims will be handed over to the Netherlands, while Malaysia will receive the doomed plane's black boxes after Kuala Lumpur struck a breakthrough deal with Ukrainian separatists on Monday.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said he had agreed with the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, Alexander Borodai, that the remains of 282 people will be moved by train to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and handed over.
He also added that a Malaysian team would be handed the two black boxes at approximately 9:00pm Ukraine time (1800 GMT) on Monday, and that independent international investigators would "be guaranteed safe access" to the crash site to begin their probe.
The doomed flight was downed Thursday - likely by a missile - in a region controlled by Ukrainian separatists and access to the crash site has been hampered by armed militants prompting global condemnation.
All 298 people aboard the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight were killed with bodies and debris strewn over a wide area. Of the people aboard, 193 were from the Netherlands and 43 from Malaysia, including the 15 crew members.
"We need to know what caused the plane to crash, and who was responsible for it, so that justice may be done," Najib said in a televised statement.
He urged "all parties (to) continue to work together to ensure that this agreement is honoured".
He added Malaysia had been working "behind the scenes to establish contact with those in charge of the MH17 crash site".
"That contact has now been made... Tonight, we have established the basis of an agreement," Najib said, adding that he had earlier spoken to Borodai.
Anger and grief
During his statement the Malaysian premier hinted at some of the frustration and anger his government had felt in the aftermath of the plane going down.
"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," he said.
Under the agreement, six Malaysian members of the recovery team will accompany the train carrying the victims' remains, which would leave this evening Ukraine time, Najib said.
An eyewitness saw the train carrying the bodies pull out of Torez station in eastern Ukraine around the same time as Najib was speaking.
The remains will then be flown to Amsterdam on board a Dutch C130 Hercules, accompanied by the Malaysian team, Najib added.
The remains of Malaysian victims would be flown back to Malaysia after "any necessary forensic work".
"I must stress that although agreement has been reached, there remain a number of steps required before it is completed," Najib said.
"There is work still to be done, work which relies on continued communication in good faith." The United States and Ukraine has alleged that the Boeing 777 was shot out of the skies by a missile system, supplied by Moscow to separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine.
The rebels have blamed Ukraine for the shooting and Russia has insisted Kiev should be held responsible for the disaster.
US President Barack Obama insisted Monday that Russia must force rebels in the region to cooperate, calling chaos at the crash site an "insult" to the victims' families.