Authorities were preparing to move the bodies of the victims to the forensic sanctuary of Amsterdam, even as deadly fighting broke out in the shadows of nearby Donetsk railway station.
After three days of delays and apparent desecration of the crash site, it was revealed more than 270 of the 298 victims had been interred in refrigerated rail cars, ready for transport.
The departure of the grim cargo had been halted by separatist militia on Sunday night and a fresh round of fighting yesterday cast further doubt over the potential emotional journey.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said he was trying to secure a "humanitarian corridor" to allow air disaster experts - including Australian representatives - swift and full access to the crash site.
Mr Yatsenyuk also said the Dutch, who lost more than 190 citizens in the crash, should lead the investigation, with the intention to transport the remains to a high-tech facility in the Netherlands for forensic examination.
A delegation from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, led by three Dutch forensics experts, was granted access to Torez station where the bodies loaded on trains were still being stored. They oversaw the sealing of carriages.
But Mr Yatsenyuk said "Russian-led guerillas" still controlled the station, with weapons including grenade launchers.
The reality of the conflict in the area was then reaffirmed with reports of heavy shelling just an hour away in central Donetsk, with two rebel-controlled tanks spotted in the area. Four people were reportedly killed.
"This is a global conflict and Russia is on the dark side," Mr Yatsenyuk said. "The Ukrainian Government will do everything to investigate this crime, to transfer the bodies, to provide any support to all respected governments and to unfold to the entire world the truth."
As a 31-strong party of Dutch, German, American, British and Australian air accident experts frustratingly waited to get a closer look at the crash site, WA Premier Colin Barnett said he would wait for a national day of mourning to be held before announcing a State service.
Seven West Australians and two permanent residents died on MH17, including Nick Norris and his three grandchildren Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin. Condolence books will be opened in Perth in the coming days, including at Parliament House. "Hopefully, international co-operation will give access to that site and loved ones can be recovered and brought home," Mr Barnett said. "Any loss of life is sad for the families concerned, but I think to see a grandfather and his three (grand)children lost is probably the most poignant of all."
WA Police and the State's disaster victim identification unit remain on stand-by.
While Prime Minister Tony Abbott said leaders were ready to take a "sterner" stand against Russian President Vladimir Putin, the US presented what it said was "powerful" evidence that Russian-backed rebels had shot down the plane.
An increasingly impatient British Prime Minister David Cameron said the situation was "a direct result of Russia destabilising a sovereign state, violating its territorial integrity, backing thuggish militias and training and arming them".
In a softening of his position, Mr Putin said he supported an investigation by a "full team of experts" under the auspices of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN agency.
But Russia's attitude to the Australian-sponsored UN resolution to set up an independent investigation was expected to show a clearer picture of its attitude.
"This resolution is supported by Russia . . . so long as it does not blame somebody," Russia's Ambassador to Australia Vladimir Morozov told the Australian Financial Review.