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70 international experts arrive at MH17 crash site

By Agence France-Presse in The Hague | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-02 08:12

Seventy Dutch and Australian experts arrived at the site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in east Ukraine on Friday after clashes between Ukrainian government troops and armed separatists killed 14 combatants.

Investigators "will conduct search operations in several places at the crash site," a Dutch government statement said. Any remains found of the 298 people who died in the tragedy would be recovered, it added.

The mission is tasked with launching an international probe into the downing two weeks ago of the airliner. Fighting and rebel restrictions to the site prevented the investigation getting under way until now.

Both rebels and Kiev have vowed to secure a circuitous access corridor to the location traced by scouts from the international team on Thursday. Ukraine's army has pledged not to fight in the immediate vicinity of the insurgent-held site.

But elsewhere around the region, government forces relaunched their offensive to oust the separatists, ending a "day of quiet" that brought a brief pause to over three months of fighting that has cost the lives of more than 1,100 people on the ground.

The military said it made fresh gains by taking the village of Novyi Svit, 25 kilometers southeast of Donetsk, and was waging operations to secure the volatile border with Russia.

70 international experts arrive at MH17 crash site

Fighting also flared in Donetsk, a rebel-held city that serves as the base for the international investigators and journalists trying to reach the MH17 site 60 km away, where local authorities said a civilian had died after a minibus taxi was hit by mortar shrapnel.

In a second rebel bastion of Lugansk, officials said five civilians were killed and nine injured due to clashes over the past 24 hours.

The continuing violence highlights the huge task facing the probe into the downing of the Amsterdam-Kuala Lumpur flight, as more experts from Malaysia also arrived in Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko gave assurances in a phone call with the Australian and Dutch prime ministers that the experts would now be able to conduct "daily" visits to the crash site.

But Dutch police taking the lead said the security situation remains "very unstable".

The United States said the armed separatists likely shot down the plane on July 17 with a missile supplied by Russia. But Moscow and the rebels contend the aircraft could have been blown out of sky by a Ukrainian jet.

Russia's aviation authorities said on Thursday that a team of their own experts had arrived in Kiev and were hoping to reach the crash site.

Meanwhile, rebel officials, Russian and Ukraine envoys, and international monitors also agreed to hold another set of talks next week after discussing a possible prisoner swap in a meeting in Belarus.

 70 international experts arrive at MH17 crash site

A family crosses a damaged bridge on Thursday in the Donetsk region in Ukraine. With hazards including blown-up railway bridges and unexploded shells and mines, the route chosen by international investigators to reach the MH17 crash site was fraught with risks. Bulent Kilic / Agence France-Presse

(China Daily 08/02/2014 page12)

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