Wreckage and debris are seen at the crash site of Malaysia
Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabovo.
Fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine where a Malaysian
airliner was downed has further complicated an investigation as
Europe and the United States prepared economic sanctions on
Russia over the conflict.
At least 13 people were killed in clashes between Ukrainian
troops and pro-Russian rebels which raged in five areas
around the wider region.
International monitors said they had abandoned plans to visit
the crash site due to fears it was not safe, even though
Malaysia said earlier rebels had agreed to provide access.
Ukraine said it was trying to dislodge the rebels, but denied
it was fighting near the crash site, saying the separatists
had put the monitors off by falsely claiming that the army
was operating nearby.
Russia dismissed U.S. allegations it was about to hand over
more missiles to the separatists, who Western leaders say
almost certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a
Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile.
The separatists deny any involvement and Moscow says it has
not supplied them, suggesting Ukrainian forces were to blame.
"Kiev is trying to destroy the evidence of a crime by its
army," separatist leader Aleksander Borodai said, referring
to a Ukrainian army offensive some distance from the site on
With European states trying to minimise the impact of any
future sanctions against Russia on their own economies, the
U.S. State Department sought to bolster the case for robust
action by releasing images it said showed Russian forces had
fired across the border at Ukrainian military in the last
The images, which show marks on the ground at what the State
Department said were launch sites and impact craters around
Ukrainian military locations, indicated fire from multiple
rocket launchers, the department said.
It also said the images offered evidence that Russia-backed
separatists inside Ukraine had fired on Ukrainian forces
using heavy artillery supplied by Russia.
Washington said on Friday another transfer from Russia to
Ukrainian separatists, this time of heavy-caliber
multiple-launch rocket systems, appeared to be imminent and
that Russian forces were slowly building up along the
Russia said recent international inspections had revealed no
evidence of Russian military violations, without giving
Members of the European Union, spurred into action by the
deaths of 298 people in the airliner, were expected to try to
reach a final deal on Tuesday on measures including closing
the bloc's capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo
on arms sales and restrictions on dual-use and energy
The EU added new names on Friday to its list of individuals
and companies facing travel bans and asset freezes over their
alleged involvement in Ukraine and could agree to extend the
list further as early as Monday.
Washington, which has taken the lead in imposing individual
and corporate penalties on Russia, said on Friday it was
likely to follow up on any new EU move with more sanctions of
The Ukrainian government said its forces were advancing
towards the crash site to try to free it from the rebels, who
have impeded the work of international monitors and whom Kiev
accuses of tampering with evidence pointing to who shot it
Only a few international experts have so far been able to get
to the site, access to which is negotiated with the rebels.
"All our troops are aiming to get there and liberate this
territory so that we can guarantee that international experts
can carry out a 100-percent investigation of the site and get
all proof needed to deduce the real reason for this tragedy,"
said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security
International monitors said the fighting itself could affect
the crash site, underlining the growing complexity of trying
to establish who shot down Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
In Donetsk, Alexander Hug, deputy head for the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring mission
in Ukraine, said monitors would not visit the site on Sunday.
"The situation on the ground appears to be unsafe ... we
therefore decided to deploy tomorrow morning," Hug, flanked
by Dutch and Australian experts, told reporters. "Fighting in
the area will most likely affect (the) crash site," Hug said.
An OSCE spokesman said the group would try again on Monday.
The separatists are still in control of the area where the
plane was shot down earlier this month but fighting in the
wider eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has been heavy
as Ukrainian government forces try to drive them out.
It was raging in at least five places on Sunday and Donetsk
region health officials said 13 people were killed in
fighting in the town of Horlivka, known as Gorlovka in
Lysenko said troops were advancing east from the town of
Makievka towards Shakhtarsk, around 25 km (16 miles) from the
crash site. Shakhtarsk residents said air strikes hit the
"Our military is advancing, fighting goes on every day, every
night, they have already liberated two-thirds of the
territory," Lysenko told a news conference in Kiev.
But Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pvalo Klimkin said the
Ukrainian army was respecting a no-fight zone within 20
kilometres from the site.
The Russian foreign ministry said Foreign Minister Sergei
Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had agreed on
the need to ensure a swift ceasefire in what it described as
an "internal conflict".
Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said an
agreement reached with separatist leader Borodai would
"provide protection for international crash investigators" to
recover human remains and ascertain the cause of the crash.
The OSCE has provided a team to monitor the site in advance
of an investigation, but Najib said a full team of
investigators was needed to ensure any human remains left
there were removed.
"We also need a full deployment of investigators to have
unfettered access to the crash site so we can understand
precisely what happened to MH17. I hope that this agreement
with Mr Borodai will ensure security on the ground, so the
international investigators can conduct their work," he said.
"Three grieving nations", Malaysia, Australia and the
Netherlands, had formed a police group to secure the site, he
said in a statement issued by his office. The Netherlands and
Australia said the mission would not be armed.
Among the 298 people who died aboard the Boeing 777 on its
flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 were 193
Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians and 28 Australians.
Malaysian experts have said they believe at least 30
investigators will be required to cover the full site of the
crash, in addition to Dutch investigators and an expert from
the United Nations' civil aviation body, the ICAO.
In the Australian capital Canberra, Prime Minister Tony
Abbott said an unarmed police mission led by the Netherlands
and made up of about 49 officers would travel to the site.
Officials said a total of 170 Australian police were deployed
Abbott, who has played a leading role in pressing for an
investigation, told reporters the force would probably stay
no longer than three weeks. "Our objective is to get in, to
get cracking and to get out," he said.