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Police visit to MH17 disaster site canceled



By DMITRY LOVETSKY

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- A team of international police officers that had been due to visit the site of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine canceled the trip Sunday after receiving reports of fighting in the area.

Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said it was too dangerous for the unarmed officers to travel to the site from its current location in the rebel-held city of Donetsk.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down with a surface-to-air missile over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists on July 17, killing all 298 people on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say it was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.

While it was not immediately clear where precisely clashes had broken out, a Ukrainian defense official said Sunday that government forces are now undertaking efforts to clear the areas around the Boeing 777 crash site from separatist rebels.

Hug said the police mission, which is comprised of officers from the Netherlands and Australia, will reconsider resuming operations if security improves.

"We continue to reassess the situation continuously and we will start to redeploy tomorrow morning back to the site if the situation changes," Hug said.

Australian prime minister Tony Abbott had said earlier Sunday that unarmed Australian police would be sent to the crash site as part of a Dutch-led police force to secure the area and help recover victims' remains.

Concerns about the integrity of the site were raised further on Saturday when a couple that had flown from their home in Perth, Australia, visited the wreckage-strewn fields outside the village of Hrabove and even sat down on part of the debris.

Flights from Ukraine to the Netherlands have taken 227 coffins containing victims of the plane disaster. Officials say the exact number of people held in the coffins still needs to be determined by forensic experts in the Netherlands.

Ukraine's National Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko said that Ukrainian troops were engaging rebels in fighting at several locations Sunday, including near the town of Debaltseve, which is 15 miles (25 kilometers) northwest of the crash site.

There was also fighting on the outskirts of Horlivka, one of the separatists' key strongholds, Lysenko said.

Lysenko said more than 20 rebel fighters were killed and eight of their armored vehicles destroyed during fighting in Horlivka. One government soldier has been killed over the previous day's fighting, he said.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported Sunday that a column of Ukrainian armored personnel carriers, trucks and tanks had entered the town of Shakhtarsk, 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of the site of the crash.

Shakhtarsk is a strategic town in the area. By controlling the town, the Ukrainian army would be cutting off the regional capital, Donetsk, from the highway leading to the Russian border.

The Malaysia Airlines disaster prompted some expectation in the West that Russia would scale back its involvement in the uprising in Ukraine's east, but 10 days later the opposite seems to be the case.

Russia launched artillery attacks from its soil into Ukraine on Friday, while the United States said it has seen powerful rocket systems moving closer to the Ukraine border.

Fighting Near MH17 Wreckage Prompts Experts To Cancel Visit

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donrahilly July 27 2014 at 8:07 AM

Do you really expect the gutless Russians to allow police into that site until they've removed all evidence?? Just as the Israelis' are doing with the Palestinians, let the Ukrainian government come in and erase these Russians.

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2 replies
gvette75 donrahilly July 27 2014 at 8:45 AM

Are you as dumb as you sound?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ramonbatt donrahilly July 27 2014 at 8:52 AM

The gutless bunch is the international world community. Including United States. Why a bunch of drunks control eastern Ukraine? Because everybody is afraid to do the right thing. Where is the international world community? Where is NATO? Where is EU ? USA ? Bunch of freaken chickens. Shame on our military forces!

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1 reply
JRivers ramonbatt July 27 2014 at 9:27 AM

Our military does not decide where it will deploy, that is civilian "leadership"s" decision. And as futile as it sometimes feels it is far preferable to a military dictatorship.

Flag +1 rate up
bambi4318.barbara July 27 2014 at 8:37 AM

Unarmed police officers to secure the crash site? Sounds useless to me, Russians have already cut up some parts of the plane and taken the parts with them.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
twalsh4440 July 27 2014 at 9:12 AM

The PRESS BBOY's for OBAMA is the reason for US Failure WE HAVE NO PRESS NBC ABC CBS POLITICO HUFF POST ALL SUCK NO NEWS

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
big dog twalsh4440 July 27 2014 at 9:57 AM

hellooooooo
#1 on that list should have been fAUX nEWS

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Linda K twalsh4440 July 27 2014 at 10:03 AM

If I don't like something, I don't go to or use it. I guess you just like doing the same thing over and over, just so you can complain about it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
twalsh4440 July 27 2014 at 9:10 AM

OBAMA either ANTICHRIST or the BIGGEST CLOWN JIVE TURKEY

Flag Reply +4 rate up
5 replies
vietnamvet1967 July 27 2014 at 8:47 AM

What a Joke, Police officers, unarmed,
this is war zone, and they reat it like a common crime

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
terryreno vietnamvet1967 July 27 2014 at 10:45 AM

That was my first thought when I read this........"unarmed Police Officers" What a joke. Best to you and THANKS vietnamvet1967 for your armed service

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ROBERT J'S July 27 2014 at 8:13 AM

Mankind is pitafull, fighting and killing eveywhere..

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
ramonbatt ROBERT J'S July 27 2014 at 8:53 AM

You should try to save the world by joining ISIS ?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
frank1946 July 27 2014 at 8:43 AM

Putin could help ?

Welcome to the 1800's.

Strongmen are weak !

Flag Reply +2 rate up
thanadar July 27 2014 at 9:08 AM

Now that Putin is a confirmed terrorist, he's fair game. He's better stick to his small coterie of pariah nations-- and most certainly not travel by plane *anywhere*.
BTW, what's the price on that midget's head?

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Peter July 27 2014 at 10:19 AM

Back and forth and back and forth...NO ONE CARES...All of this will do nothing to change the situation....So let's keep reporting every little thing and seeing that it all means nothing...getting everyone worked up and then nothing happens....Here we go again...not about the story or the tragedy...but the need to know every detail...whether or not it means abything...we are such a lost civilization...

Flag Reply +1 rate up
fernandezarthr July 27 2014 at 10:46 AM

I hope the Russian, Communist supported rebels, keep shooting down planes,....specially, French and German,.....

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
luigi1947 fernandezarthr July 27 2014 at 10:57 AM

I am sure this will solve it all
what a moron you are

Flag Reply +1 rate up
ganderrrr fernandezarthr July 27 2014 at 12:06 PM

I hope you're a passenger on one of them.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
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