International experts reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Thursday after Kiev announced a 24-hour halt to its offensive on pro-Russian rebels in east Ukraine to allow investigators to access the site.
Monitors with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), accompanied by Dutch and Australian experts, said they had secured access to the site, two weeks to the day after the plane came down in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian rebels and clashes with Ukraine government forces had frustrated previous efforts to recover the remains of the victims and investigate the cause of the crash.
“OSCE... monitors reach MH17 crash site for first time in almost week, accompanied by four Dutch, Australian experts. Used new route to access,” the OSCE said on Twitter.
The small reconnaissance team would make initial checks of the area, a statement from the Dutch mission said.
“They will now only do initial reconnaissance, so that they can start searching as soon as possible during a later visit,” it said.
Most of the international experts remained in the nearby provincial capital of Donetsk, now the main rebel stronghold in the east.
Kiev and the rebels accuse one another over the downing of the plane, which killed all 298 on board.
International fallout from the crisis tearing apart the ex-Soviet nation rumbled on as the Group of Seven major developed economies warned Moscow that it could face even tougher sanctions over its backing for the insurgents, despite the EU and US already hitting Russia with the most punitive measures since the Cold War.
Ukraine's military announced the surprise suspension of its entire operation across the east after a plea from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to halt fighting in the area of the crash, where remains from some of the victims lie festering in the sun, some two weeks after the jet was shot down over rebel-held territory.
"We have taken a decision not to conduct military operations on this so-called 'day of quiet'," military spokesman Oleksiy Dmytrashkivsky told AFP.
Kiev, which has continually blamed rebels controlling the site for blocking the probe, warned, however, that insurgents had continued shelling its troops positions around the region.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and AP)
Date created : 2014-07-31