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Investigators finally make it to MH17 crash site

July 31, 2014, Rozsypne, Ukraine - 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.


July 31, 2014
By The Associated Press

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.

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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.

 

Armoured 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, Kyiv, 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.