Clashes delay international access to MH17 site

Sunday 27 July 2014 21.55
Flowers left at the site of the crash by family members of an Australian victim
Flowers left at the site of the crash by family members of an Australian victim

Plans to retrieve the remaining bodies from the MH17 crash have been disrupted as Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists clash in the area where the plane went down.

Dutch and Australian police officers who were due to visit the crash site in eastern Ukraine had to postpone their trip due to an escalation in violence.

Ten days after the disaster, which killed all 298 people on board the Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, a full investigation is yet to get under way.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it was too dangerous for the unarmed forensic experts to travel to the crash site from their current location in Donetsk.

Mr Hug said: "We reassess the situation continuously and we will start to redeploy tomorrow morning back to the site if the situation changes."

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that he had rejected the idea of deploying armed troops to secure the crash site because there was no way to achieve "military superiority" in the region.

Commenting on the Dutch-led operation, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott conceded: "This is a risky mission. There's no doubt about that.

"But all the professional advice that I have is that the safest way to conduct it is unarmed, as part of a police-led humanitarian mission."

Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in a statement that he had received assurances from pro-Russia separatists that they would provide protection for investigators.

Flights from Ukraine to the Netherlands have so far delivered 227 coffins containing victims' remains which forensic experts are working to identify.

Britain’s Foreign Office said it was still waiting for updates on the identification of the ten British passport-holders who were killed in the crash.

Meanwhile, the US made fresh accusations against Russia, claiming that it had fired rockets more than seven miles into eastern Ukraine between 21 July and 26 July.

The State Department released satellite images which it said showed blast rockets from where the rockets were launched and craters where they landed.

The US and the Ukrainian government in Kiev have both blamed pro-Russian fighters for bringing down flight MH17 using a Buk surface-to-air missile after mistaking the Boeing 777 for a Ukrainian military aircraft.

Fighting in the troubled region today centred around the town of Horlivka, around 30km north of the main rebel-held city of Donetsk.

The Donetsk regional government, which remains loyal to Kiev but has left the area, said that at least 13 people, including two children aged one and five, were killed in fighting there.

It also claimed that another five people had been killed in clashes in a suburb north of Donetsk.

The two nearest mid-sized towns to the crash site, Snizhne and Torez, also witnessed fighting, according to local media.

Ukraine's National Security Council declared that government forces had made gains, while the separatist military command in Donetsk said that rebel fighters were holding their ground.

Keywords: ukraine