The first plane carrying bodies from downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Wednesday left eastern Ukraine for the Netherlands following a sombre ceremony, an AFP journalist at the scene said.
The Dutch military aircraft took off from the airport in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv bound for Eindhoven after the remains of 40 victims were loaded onto two planes in wooden coffins.
A grey Australian transport aircraft was sitting on the tarmac with its propellors idling as it prepared to take off for the Netherlands.
After being left for days rotting in the summer sun at the rebel-controlled crash site, the corpses were finally given a dignified ceremony as they were carried in coffins onto the waiting jets by army cadets before a small party of officials.
Following a minute of silence the only sound that could be heard was the tramping of the military boots on the tarmac as the young soldiers loaded the bodies ahead of their journey westwards.
Some 50 local residents gathered nearby to pay their respects holding bouquets of flowers and wearing Ukrainian flags draped over their shoulders.
"I am so sad for these people who died on our soil," said local Olga, clutching a bunch of roses.
"We feel that we are somehow responsible for what has happened," she said.