Experts try to reach Ukraine crash site amid clashes

Ukrainian government troops have advanced against rebels in eastern Ukraine since the start of the month, when they pushed the rebels out of their best-defended stronghold, the town of Slaviansk.

Experts try to reach Ukraine crash site amid clashes

World Bulletin / News Desk

Experts from the Netherlands and Australia tried on Thursday to reach the crash site in eastern Ukraine of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after several failed attempts this week.

Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were also part of a team that was trying to navigate a safe route to the area where the plane went down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

"The goal is to reach the spot where MH17 crashed and evaluate safety on the route from Donetsk," the Dutch team said in a statement.

Although most of the bodies have been recovered from the site, there are still human remains and personal belongings to be secured.

The area has been inaccessible all week due to fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, who have accused rebels of placing land mines to prevent a proper investigation. 

On the ground in Ukraine, heavy fighting between government forces and separatists has been taking place near the site.

Kiev accused the pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday of fortifying the area, including with land mines, to prevent the site from being properly investigated. The land mine report could not be independently confirmed. Ukraine is party to a treaty banning land mines; Russia is not.

Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko said the rebels were digging in for battle near the crash site: "They have brought a large number of heavy artillery there and mined approaches to this area. This makes impossible the work of international experts trying to start work to establish the reasons behind the Boeing 777 crash."

The G7 leaders called on all sides to establish a ceasefire at the crash site.

Moscow denies Western accusations that it has armed and supported rebels who are fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. But Western countries say flows of heavy weapons across the frontier have only increased since the airliner was shot down, killing all 298 people on board.

Lysenko said 363 Ukrainian troops had been killed and 1,434 wounded since Kiev's "anti-terrorist" operation began.

GOVERNMENT TROOPS ADVANCE

Despite what the West says is an increase in armaments for the rebels, government troops have advanced since the start of the month, when they pushed the rebels out of their best-defended stronghold, the town of Slaviansk. Since then, Western countries say thousands of Russian soldiers have returned to the border from which they had withdrawn weeks ago.

NATO military commander General Philip Breedlove said the number of troops along the border was now "well over 12,000", and weaponry was also building up.

Valentyn Nalivaichenko, the head of Ukraine's SBU security service, said arms including Grad multiple rocket launchers were flooding across the border.

"Grads come in from Russian territory, take pre-agreed positions and fire on the Ukrainians. This is hundreds of rocket launches. They come in, shoot around like in a safari. This is serious military aggression," he told a news conference.

The rebels are mainly holed up in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, which they have declared capitals of two independent "people's republics", as well as in the surrounding countryside.

Last Mod: 31 Temmuz 2014, 09:27
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