UK & World News

  • 26 July 2014, 22:12

Bodies 'Still Remain' At MH17 Crash Site

Human remains are still at the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine more than a week after the aircraft came down, says Australia's Prime Minister.

Tony Abbott is sending 190 police officers along with a small number of its defence forces to try to help secure the area which is currently controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

The Australians will join 40 plain-clothes military police from the Netherlands who are set to begin escorting forensic experts to the vast crash site.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will travel to the Netherlands on Wednesday to discuss the downed jet with his Dutch counterpart where they will discuss how to get investigators full access to the area.

Some 227 bodies out of a total of 298 people killed in the flight MH17 disaster have been handed over to Dutch authorities, but many more remains lie under the sweltering heat at the scene.

"Plainly there are unrecovered body remains in the area. And it's the presence of unrecovered remains that makes it more important than ever that an international team be dispatched to the site," said Mr Abbott, stressing it was a humanitarian mission.

"Every day the site remains unsecured, there is more interference and the remains are subject to the ravages of the European summer, animals, disturbance."

Two cargo planes have flown 38 more coffins carrying victims out of Ukraine to Holland where they will be taken to a forensic centre for identification and investigation.

The White House has said Russian President Vladimir Putin was "culpable" in the downing of MH17.

In his strongest comments yet since the plane was shot down, White House spokesman Josh Earnest linked the crash to Russia, which the US has criticised for providing arms to Ukrainian separatists.

Mr Earnest also confirmed reports that Russian troops are firing heavy artillery on Ukrainian military across the border, describing it as an escalation of the conflict.

The US has previously accused Russia of providing arms to Ukrainian pro-Russian separatists.

Russia, however, has called the latest US accusations of Moscow's involvement in the Ukrainian conflict a baseless "smear campaign".

Meanwhile, European Union ambassadors have reached a preliminary deal on stepped-up sanctions against Russia, targeting its defence and technology sectors and its access to European capital.

EU spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said EU member states must decide whether the measures need to be approved by a summit meeting of the trade bloc's 28 member countries to go into effect.

The ambassadors also ordered asset freezes and travel bans against more Russians and pro-Russian Ukrainians accused of undermining Ukraine.

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the FSB, and Mikhail Fradkov, head of the foreign intelligence service, were among 15 Russians and Ukrainians, and 18 companies and other organisations named in the latest sanctions list published in the EU's Official Journal.

The Russian foreign ministry said the additional sanctions would hamper co-operation over international and regional security issues.

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