Experts work at Ukraine plane wreckage, lull in fighting

by Reuters
Saturday, 2 August 2014 09:31 GMT

DONETSK, Ukraine, Aug 2 (Reuters) - A lull in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists allowed international experts on Saturday to resume their search for human remains at the wreckage of a Malaysian airliner downed in eastern Ukraine last month.

About 70 experts worked at the site for a second successive day following an agreement on a local ceasefire by the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian rebels, the Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) said.

"Long day ahead. Intensive work focused on recovery (of) victims' remains," the security and rights body, which also has eight representatives at the site, said on Twitter.

Roads had for days been too dangerous to use because of heavy fighting, frustrating efforts to recover all the last of the 298 victims' remains and push ahead with an investigation into the cause of the disaster.

Ukrainian officials said this week about 80 bodies had not yet been recovered from the wreckage of the Boeing 777.

The experts, who include Dutch and Australians, recovered more remains on Friday but security was deemed "unstable and unpredictable" at the site. The 298 killed on the plane included 196 Dutch, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.

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 July 17 on Kiev's military campaign to quell the separatists' uprising.

The Ukrainian military said its forces had suffered no losses overnight in the conflict, although there was continued shooting in some areas, including tank and missile fire around the rebel-held city of Luhansk.

The military reported three cases of shooting from across the border with Russia, a charge it has levelled at Moscow increasingly often. Moscow denies such accusations, and Russia's RIA news agency quoted border guards as saying nine shells had been fired from Ukrainian territory onto Russian soil.

(Reporting by Maria Tsvetkova in Donetsk, Pavel Polityuk and Timothy Heritage in Kiev and Alexander Winning in Moscow; Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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