Saturday, September 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Netherlands, Australia set to analyze, secure crash site

Dutch investigators examine pieces of the Malaysia Airlines jet. The Dutch government said it was sending 40 unarmed military police. Australia has 90 federal police officers standing by in Europe. DMITRY
Dutch investigators examine pieces of the Malaysia Airlines jet. The Dutch government said it was sending 40 unarmed military police. Australia has 90 federal police officers standing by in Europe. DMITRY LOVETSKY / AP
KHARKIV, Ukraine - A small group of Dutch and Australian investigators combed the sprawling, unsecured site where Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 went down, taking notes and photos as their governments prepared police detachments they hoped could help protect the crash area and bring the last of the victims home.

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.

"This will be a police-led humanitarian mission," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said in Kharkiv, where more remains were placed on flights Friday to the Netherlands for identification and investigation. "And there will be body-identification experts, forensic experts. And of course we will ensure that they are safe, that they will have protection."

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.

Jona Kallgren and Lucian Kim Associated Press
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected