Netherlands, Australia set to analyze, secure crash site
The Dutch government said 40 unarmed military police were leaving the Netherlands late Friday for eastern Ukraine to help investigators, while Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has said his government was close to a deal to send police. Australia has 90 federal police officers standing by in Europe.
The Boeing 777 went down July 17 as it headed to Kuala Lumpur from Amsterdam, killing all 298 people on board. U.S. and Ukrainian officials say it was shot down, likely by mistake, by a missile fired from rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting Ukrainian government forces.
Of the dead, 194 were Dutch citizens and 37 were Australian citizens or residents. Both countries' governments have expressed a determination to see the dead brought home and the accident investigated. More than a week after the crash, security concerns and rebel interference have delayed recovery of the bodies and limited investigators' access to the site.
The Dutch Safety Board leading the international investigation said that it expected to publish "initial factual findings" as early as next week.
Underlining security concerns, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday that Russia was launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border.
Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, said five salvos of heavy rockets were fired across the border near the town of Kolesnikov in the Luhansk region in the country's east. A border crossing point near Marynovka was fired on twice with mortars, also from the Russian side, while Ukrainian forces shot down three Russian drones, Lysenko said.
If true, the allegations mean Moscow is playing a more direct role in the fighting than it has been accused of up to now - a dangerous turn in what is already the gravest crisis between Russia and the West since the end of the Cold War.