The bodies of the victims of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are being loaded on to three railway carriages, apparently with refrigerator capability, which are standing at the train station in the town of Torez, several miles from the crash site in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
The Guardian witnessed the arrival of a delegation from the international monitoring body the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) at around midday local time to inspect the wagons, accompanied by a convoy of heavily armed and nervous rebels.
As they opened the metal door to one of the carriages to inspect the interior, a stench of death wafted out, and black body bags were visible inside.
"The special monitoring mission in its third day dealing with the incident has now monitored the location where bodies are being refrigerated in three wagons," said Alexander Hug, the deputy chief of the mission.
"We have not been able to count them as that would be too difficult in this situation."
According to AFP, the pro-Russian militiamen loaded almost 200 bodies into trains yesterday and said they had recovered objects from the crash site believed to be the plane's black boxes.
Jet parts resembling the black boxes were discovered at the crash site," said Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, adding that they would be handed over to "international experts if they arrive".
Borodai said the fighters had moved scores of bodies "out of respect for the families" and loaded them on to trains where they would be kept in refrigerated carriages until "the experts arrive".
"We couldn't wait any longer because of the heat and also because there are many dogs and wild animals in the zone."
The OSCE observers said they found the corpses packed into refrigerated wagons at a station in the town of Torez, some 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the crash site.
The bodies, some dismembered and charred, had been left rotting in cornfields amid the blackened piles of mangled wreckage of the plane, with debris spread out for kilometres.
Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the mission, added: "Going inside the wagons is impossible without special equipment. The stench is very, very bad."
The OSCE, which has had its access to the crash site itself limited in recent days, left in a convoy to return to the crash site.
There have been no international investigators at the scene. Ukrainian authorities say they are setting up facilities for relatives to stay and autopsies in the city of Kharkiv, about 200 miles away.
Armed separatists at the scene refused to say how many bodies were in the train carriages or when they would leave. The train driver told the Guardian he had no idea of the train's destination.
The local department of Ukraine's emergencies ministry in the eastern Donetsk region said yesterday that 196 bodies had been found at the site where the Malaysian airliner crashed.
"As of 7am on July 20, in the Shakhtarsky region of the crash site of the Boeing 777, 196 bodies were found," it said in a statement, adding that divers were involved in the search because the area included a reservoir.
It also emerged yesterday that the UN security council was considering a draft resolution to condemn the "shooting down" of a Malaysian passenger plane in Ukraine, demand armed groups grant access to the crash site, and call on states in the region to cooperate with an international investigation.
Australia – which lost 28 citizens – circulated a draft text, seen by Reuters, to the 15-member security council late on Saturday, and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it could be put to a vote as early as today.
The draft resolution "demands that those responsible for this incident be held to account and that all states cooperate fully with efforts to establish accountability".
It "condemns in the strongest terms the shooting down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 … resulting in the tragic loss of 298 lives" and "demands that all states and other actors in the region refrain from acts of violence directed against civilian aircraft."
The draft UN resolution "calls on all states and actors in the region to cooperate fully in relation to the international investigation of the incident, including with respect to immediate access to the crash site".
It "demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the crash site and immediately provide safe, secure, full and unfettered access to the site and surrounding area".