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Investigators reach Ukraine crash site

Associated Press

ROZSYPNE, Ukraine (AP) -- As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, an international team of investigators on Thursday reached the crash site of the Malaysia Airline Flight 17 and got a first look at where it was brought down by a missile two weeks ago.

Clashes along routes to the wreckage site between government troops and pro-Russian separatist rebels had kept the delegation from reaching the area to retrieve bodies that have been lying in open fields where midsummer temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees (32 degrees Celsius) for the last several weeks.

But the investigators were allowed early Thursday afternoon through a checkpoint leading to the crash site at the village of Rozsypne by a rifle-toting militiaman who then fired a warning shot to prevent reporters from accompanying the convoy.

The militiaman, who gave his name only as Sergei, said there was still fighting happening in Rozsypne as the Ukrainian army continues an offensive to take back swatches of territory from the rebels.

The team of police and forensic experts, which comprises members from the Netherlands and Australia, are expected to initially focus their efforts on retrieving bodies still on the site and collecting victims' belongings.

As many as 80 bodies are still at the site, said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from Ukraine.

Ukrainian national security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a "day of quiet" was declared Thursday in response to a call for a cease-fire from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But Associated Press reporters near the crash site confirmed Thursday that clashes were still taking place in the immediate vicinity of where the Boeing 777 came down.

Reporters who attempted to reach the crash site by another route were warned by residents that some nearby roads have been mined and saw a mortar round land near Hrabove, another village around which fragments of the plane remain uncollected.

Thursday's drive took the convoy of investigators and Organization for Security and Cooperation officials from the rebel-held city of Donetsk through the town of Debaltseve, which was earlier this week retaken by the government, and later back into rebel territory.

Armored personnel carriers and waving the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag could be seen in and around Debaltseve.

At one entrance to Debaltseve, local residents walked along a pontoon erected over the remains of a blown-up bridge.

A delegation from Russia's state aviation body said Thursday it also hoped to visit the site, an agency spokesman said.

Sergei Izvolsky told the AP that a delegation of Russian specialists from Rosaviatsiya was due in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Thursday to work with Australian and Dutch investigators and examine the wreckage of the plane. Representatives of the Dutch and Ukrainian commissions would not comment on the arrival of Russian officials.

Ukraine's parliament, meanwhile, voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Yatsenyuk had said last week he was resigning after two parties left the coalition supporting him and parliament balked at passing laws he said were essential to fund the country's war against pro-Russian separatists.

While the confidence vote ensures some continuity in the country's turbulent political system, President Petro Poroshenko has said he wants new parliamentary elections held soon.

The current legislature is a leftover of the period of rule of former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was overthrown in February. Before Yanukovych's ouster, parliament was dominated by his Party of Regions, which has since lost many of its members to defection.

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jloschh July 31 2014 at 8:23 AM

war crimes, shooting the airliner down. not assisting or allowing investigators access to crash site. fowling up evidence. threatening investigators with death. land mines in roads leading to crash site. the murder of 295 innocent people.

Flag Reply +16 rate up
bdgrizcp July 31 2014 at 8:53 AM

Finally! I guess the Russian militia has pretty much looted and plundered all the bling, cash, credit cards, passports and anything else of value from the crash sites. As if shooting the plane down wasn't enough, they had the cheek to defile the dead. These are some very sick people.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
Michelle CD July 31 2014 at 8:52 AM

Of course they have finally been allowed to reach the crash site, now that Putin and his insurgents have had time to destroy all evidence and trample the crash site.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
tmccull52 July 31 2014 at 8:56 AM

"An AP journalist at the scene Thursday said it appeared to be under the control of separatist rebel fighters.

Police and forensic experts from the Netherlands and Australia are expected to initially focus their efforts on retrieving bodies still on the site and collect victims' belongings."

What the investigators will learn is just how thoroughly that the Russian separatists and military have scrubbed the vicinity and relsated materials of any trace of Russian wrong-doing or complicity.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
anvmd July 31 2014 at 9:01 AM

The Russians want to visit the crash site so they can assess the effectiveness of their SAM missles. I'm sure they're not interested in decomposed bodies - life has less meaning for them.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
quincy_maxwell July 31 2014 at 9:14 AM

This is really in the lowest taste, not allowing these investigators into this murder scene before now. Obviously, these Russian backed thugs have no hearts. They should be treated as terrorists, because that is exactly what they are.

Flag Reply +11 rate up
Dirk Smith July 31 2014 at 8:36 AM

Putin, the international jackal, is responsible for this war crime along with many more. His unchecked megalomania will result in many more unnecessary deaths around the world. It appears Mitt Romney was right again regarding Russia.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
5 replies
Mandoist July 31 2014 at 8:45 AM

I am hoping for the best for these folks who are putting their lives on the line in order to ease the pain of those whom lost loved ones, and put their souls at ease by finding their family members.

Most of all -- I hope this is not a trap by the merciless "seperatists". Let's get in and out of there before the next round of bombs take to the air.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
brwnysbrb July 31 2014 at 9:21 AM

I honestly do not think Putin had this plane shot down. I believe it was the Ukranian government or Obama ordered it to be shot down, so that the blame could be put on Putin & Russia. Nothing in today's world is impossible. Obama is a traitor to the USA & a enemy to the world. Obama is for the nasty, filthy Muslims.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
9 replies
rimit9 July 31 2014 at 9:25 AM

Don't blame the average Russian Joe for what Putin does or says, Just as I would ask the world not to judge us by what our own moron does.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
Bruce Brough rimit9 July 31 2014 at 2:28 PM

Name calling, rimit, is a childish form of striking out at something you don't understand. Whose moron are you?

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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