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Experts reach plane crash site in Ukraine

By Agencies in Kiev | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-01 07:30

The OSCE security and rights organization said its monitors, accompanied by Dutch and Australian experts, reached the crash site of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, two weeks after the plane came down.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and rebels in the wider area has frustrated international experts' efforts to get to the site to recover remains of the victims and investigate the crash.

"OSCE ... monitors reach MH17 crash site for first time in almost week, accompanied by four Dutch, Australian experts. Used new route to access," the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said on Twitter.

The small reconnaissance team would make initial checks of the area, a statement from the Dutch mission said.

"They will now only do initial reconnaissance, so that they can start searching as soon as possible during a later visit," it said.

Most of the international experts remained in the nearby provincial capital of Donetsk, now the main rebel stronghold in the east.

Kiev and the rebels accuse each other over the downing of the plane, which killed all 298 on board.

Kiev said on Thursday it had suspended offensive operations in its military campaign to help international experts reach the crash site but separatists were continuing to attack its positions.

It said on the Facebook website of what it calls its "anti-terrorist operation" against rebels in the east that it was heeding calls by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to stop fighting near the plane crash site.

"On July 31, troops involved in the active ATO phase are not conducting military operations apart from protecting their own positions from attack," it said. "But terrorists are not respecting any international agreements and requests."

The rebels have accused Kiev of blocking access to the crash site by fighting in the area.

"Ukraine continued to violate the cease-fire in the MH17 crash area, not allowing OSCE observers and experts from the Netherlands and Australia to enter the area," said Sergei Kavtaradze, an aide to top rebel leader Aleksander Borodai.

(China Daily 08/01/2014 page12)

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