Members of a group of international experts inspect
wreckage at the crash site near the village of Grabovo in
Donetsk region. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
International experts have found the remains of more
victims of the downed Malaysian airliner in east Ukraine, but
fighting nearby between government forces and pro-Russian
rebels has renewed security concerns around the wreckage.
The expert group, which Ukrainian authorities said numbered
101 people, was the largest to access the wreckage since
Flight MH17 crashed in rebel-held territory on July 17. All
298 people aboard were killed.
Roads had for days been too dangerous to use because of heavy
fighting, frustrating efforts to recover all the victims'
remains and push ahead with an investigation.
"The team has finished its work for today. They found and
recovered human remains. They will... be brought back to the
Netherlands for identification," Dutch Prime Minister Mark
Rutte said in the Netherlands. "The security situation at the
site is unstable and unpredictable."
In the latest clashes, separatist forces killed at least 10
Ukrainian paratroopers in an ambush after midnight near
Shakhtarsk, one of the closest towns to the wreckage site,
the Ukrainian military said.
The rebels said they had pushed back government forces around
Shakhtarsk, where fighting has raged for several days. A
Ukrainian military official said a further 13 troops were
wounded and 11 unaccounted for.
The recovery mission included experts from Australia and the
Netherlands, whose countries suffered a big loss of life in
the shoot-down, as well as representatives of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"Any body part found gives more relief to the relatives of
those who died in that accident and will help also to further
identify bodies should it be the only part that is left of a
person who died in that accident," Alexander Hug, deputy head
of the OSCE mission in Ukraine, told a briefing in Donetsk. .
An advance team drove to the site from the nearest big city,
Donetsk, on Thursday but stayed only for about an hour and
said sides resumed fighting immediately after they left.
Agreement was later reached to extend the limited ceasefire
around the route, making it a safe corridor, at talks in
Belarus involving Russia, Ukraine, the rebels and the OSCE.
In a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on
Friday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko promised to
stick to the ceasefire, a statement on the president's
Kiev has accused the rebels of planting mines in the region
near the crash site, suggesting they want to hamper the
investigation and hide evidence, but an OSCE official said no
evidence had been found to back up the allegations.
Ukrainian officials said this week about 80 bodies had not
been recovered from the wreckage of the Boeing 777. The
victims included 196 Dutch and 27 Australians, as well as 43
Rutte said a total of 400 international experts, including
police, forensic experts, military police and investigators
were now in eastern Ukraine to help with recovery and
The United States says the separatists probably shot down the
plane by mistake with a Russian-made missile. The rebels and
Moscow deny the accusation and blame the downing on Kiev's
military campaign to quell the uprising.
Kiev accuses Moscow of supplying arms and fighters to the
separatist rebellion, an allegation also made in the West,
which has stepped up sanctions against Russia over the
Russia denies it is involved. The Defence Ministry said on
its website that satellite imagery Kiev had released in
public to back the accusations was "hastily doctored
The Ukrainian government also made new allegations on Friday
that Russian planes had flown over east Ukraine although
Moscow has denied such accusations in the past few weeks.
In other violence, city authorities said five civilians had
been killed and nine wounded in the past 24 hours in Luhansk,
which, with, Donetsk, is the last big rebel stronghold.
Government forces have intensified their offensive in mainly
Russian-speaking east Ukraine since the airliner came down.
The separatists have been pushed out of other towns they held
in the rebellion, mounted against rule by Kiev's pro-Western
leaders and inspired by Russia's annexation of Crimea after a
pro-Moscow president was ousted in Kiev in February.
Luhansk, the smaller of the two main rebel strongholds, is
now almost completely surrounded by government troops. It has
been cut off from food supplies and left with almost no
electricity or running water, authorities say.
More than 1,100 people were killed and nearly 3,500 wounded
between mid-April and July 26, the United Nations said.
(Additionl reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kiev, Maria
Tsvetkova in Donetsk and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam,
Writing by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage
and Mark Heinrich)