No investigation appears to be under way at the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, FRANCE 24 reports, as Dutch and Australian troops remain on standby for deployment to secure the rebel-held crash site.
"The smell of death and engine fuel is still very strong here at the crash site of flight MH17, over a week after the tragedy," said FRANCE 24's Luke Brown, reporting from the scene.
"Few security measures have been put in place to protect the site and any forensic evidence that could be found here," Brown said, adding that some 40 Dutch police officers are expected to secure the area in the coming days.
The Netherlands is leading the international probe after losing 193 citizens in the crash of Malaysian flight MH17 in east Ukraine, where fighting between the army and separatists claimed over a dozen more lives on Friday.
A truce has been declared in the vicinity of the vast crash site in rebel-held Grabove, where remains of the victims still lie decomposing under the sweltering summer heat.
Dutch authorities said 189 coffins have been flown to the Netherlands where the remains would be identified, with another flight set to carry 38 more from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv to Eindhoven on Saturday.
The Netherlands said troops had been consigned to barracks and had leave cancelled ahead of an expected mission to secure the site.
Australia, which lost 28 people, said it already has 90 police in Europe ready to deploy and that it also plans to send troops.
"This is a humanitarian mission with a clear and simple objective: to bring them home," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said. "All we want to do is to claim our dead and to bring them home."
But monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said rebels controlling the area were only ready to accept between 25 to 35 members of foreign delegations.
Ukrainian PM resigns
Kiev meanwhile was scrambling to avert a political crisis after the shock resignation of Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk, who quit Thursday in fury after the UDAR (Punch) party of boxing champion Vitali Klitschko and other parties announced they were leaving the coalition.
Klitschko has insisted that the premier stay on until early parliamentary elections are held.
The political uncertainty prompted Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – which in late April approved a $17 billion two-year financial lifeline for Ukraine – to telephone both President Petro Poroshenko and Yatseniuk.
"The discussions focused on the implications of the recent political developments in Ukraine for economic policies, in particular for the authorities' ability to implement the programme that is being supported by a Stand-By Arrangement," the IMF said.
Lagarde "encouraged steady implementation of the authorities' reform programme", said the Fund, which had previously forecasted that Ukraine's economy would contract by 6.5 percent this year due to the insurgency engulfing the country's vital industrial east.
Government forces make gains
The government's offensive to regain control of Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland was given a boost Friday when its forces took the strategically important city of Lysychansk.
At the same time it reported losing 13 soldiers in the past 24 hours, while local authorities in the region of rebel strongholds of Donetsk and Lugansk said 16 people have been killed.
The bloody insurgency has forced 230,000 people to flee their homes, the United Nations said, including 130,000 who have sought refuge in Russia.
The United States has accused Moscow of supplying the missile system it believes was used by pro-Russian separatists in east Ukraine to shoot down MH17.
The US said late Thursday that it had new evidence that Russia was planning to "deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to the insurgents.
Both Russia and the rebels deny the accusations, and Moscow hit back on Friday, dismissing the US claims as a "smear campaign".
EU boosts Russia sanctions
The European Union said on Saturday it had imposed asset freezes on a number of top Russian officials following the downing of the Malaysia Airlines flight, presumably by Russian-backed separatists.
Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian security agency FSB, and Mikhail Fradkov, head of the foreign intelligence service, were among 15 Russians or Ukrainians and 18 companies and other organisations named in the latest sanctions list published in the EU’s Official Journal.
The European Union reached the outline agreement on Friday to impose the first economic sanctions on Russia over its behaviour in Ukraine but scaled back the scope of the sanctions to exclude technology for the crucial gas sector.
The sanctions on access to capital markets, arms and hi-tech goods are also likely to apply only to future contracts – leaving France free to go ahead with the controversial delivery of Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia, despite protests from the UK.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy wrote to EU leaders asking them to authorise their ambassadors to complete an agreement by Tuesday. That would avoid the need for leaders to hold a special summit to approve the sanctions.
Van Rompuy said the proposed sanctions package “strikes the right balance” in terms of costs and benefits to the EU and in its flexibility to ramp up sanctions or reverse them over time.
“It should have a strong impact on Russia’s economy while keeping a moderate effect on EU economies,” he wrote in the letter seen by Reuters.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-07-26