Experts recover more MH17 remains, despite deadly clashes

Kiev says rebels killed at least 10 paratroopers in ambush near airline crash site

Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of debris of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 aircraft yesterday near the village of Hrabove in eastern Ukraine. Photograph: EPA/Igor Kovalenko

Australian and Dutch investigators examine a piece of debris of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 aircraft yesterday near the village of Hrabove in eastern Ukraine. Photograph: EPA/Igor Kovalenko

Sat, Aug 2, 2014, 01:00

International experts have recovered more passenger remains from the crash site of Flight MH17, despite safety fears over deadly fighting nearby.

The Netherlands’ justice ministry said that 70 Dutch and Australian experts had worked among the wreckage on Friday. Inspectors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe were also present.

“All human remains that were found will be taken with them,” the ministry said.

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the Dutch police officer leading his country’s mission in eastern Ukraine, said: “We are happy that we can make sure that these remains can now be sent to the Netherlands. “We hope that this can bring comfort to the bereaved. It is a relief that our people are now at work.”

Recovery of bodies

Officials think the bodies of about 80 people are still to be recovered from the wide area of fields and villages where the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, disintegrated on July 17th, killing all 298 people on board.

The Netherlands lost 193 citizens in the disaster and is leading the operation to find all the bodies and discover what brought down the aircraft.

Kiev and the United States say it was hit by a high-tech Russian missile launched by pro-Moscow rebels, who are fighting Ukraine’s government forces in the area where the plane came down.

Moscow and the insurgents deny this. They claim the airliner was probably struck by a Ukrainian missile or rockets fired by one of Kiev’s jet fighters.

Ukraine’s government said on Thursday it was halting “anti-terrorist” operations around the crash site for 24 hours to let the international team start work.

Russia and the rebels agreed with Kiev to maintain a “safety corridor” to the area for the investigators, but in the early hours of Friday militants ambushed Ukrainian forces.

Military spokesmen said at least 10 paratroopers had been killed near Shakhtyorsk, a rundown mining town about 20km from the crash site. A further 13 servicemen were injured and 11 missing.

Citizens killed

Ukrainian forces are gradually encircling the main rebel-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and dozens of civilians have been killed in shelling, much of it by government troops.

Kiev and its US and European allies accuse Russia of continuing to allow reinforcements and weapons to reach the insurgents across stretches of the border that they control.

Moscow denies helping the militants, but has failed to explain why its frontier with Ukraine remains porous to fighters and arms, or how Russian citizens with security service links came to lead an insurgency that wants eastern Ukraine to split with Kiev’s new pro-western government and be ruled by the Kremlin.

Igor Girkin, a former member of Russia’s security services who uses the nom de guerre “Strelkov” and is the rebels’ “defence minister”, has declared a “state of siege” around Donetsk and made himself the city’s “military commandant”.

He also issued an order permitting his men to confiscate whatever they need for the war effort, including people’s cars, food, medical supplies and building materials.