Russia asks to help at Ukraine plane crash site

Emergencies Ministry members work at the site of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 plane crash in the settlement of Grabovo in the Donetsk region, July 17, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia asked Kiev on Thursday for permission to help with rescue work in eastern Ukraine after a Malaysian passenger airliner was brought down there, the Emergencies Ministry said.

"The Russian emergency services sent an official request to our Ukrainian colleagues to carry out joint work at the crash site of a Boeing (plane) on Ukrainian territory," Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov told Russia's RIA news agency.

Russia's Health Ministry also offered its expertise in helping to identify the bodies of the 295 people killed, ministry spokesman Oleg Salagan told RIA.

It was not clear whether Kiev had responded.

Relations between Russia and Ukraine are badly strained following the overthrow of a Ukrainian president who was sympathetic to Moscow and Russia's subsequent annexation of the Crimea region from Ukraine.

Kiev accuses Moscow of backing pro-Russian separatists who have risen up in eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies the accusations.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel, Editing by Timothy Heritage)