Investigators searching the wreckage of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine for a second day found more human remains and personal effects of victims as government forces continued battling pro-Russian rebels.
The 70-strong team of Dutch and Australian forensic experts and police officers, helped by sniffer dogs, returned to a chicken farm near the village of Grabovo where the bulk of the fuselage came down on July 17, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, the Dutch head of the recovery mission, said in a statement. They spent 5 1/2 hours at the site. The remains and objects found were placed in a refrigerated truck to be taken to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv for analysis.
“There, Dutch, Australian and Malaysian experts and others stand ready to perform an initial forensic scan on the recovered remains,” Aalbersberg said. “We would like to thank all parties that have once again facilitated our access to the crash site. This is of great importance to the international police officers, the experts and, especially, the victims’ families.”
A total of 227 coffins with remains have already been returned to the Netherlands. About two-thirds of the 298 people who died on the plane, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, were Dutch. The U.S. and Ukraine say the Boeing Co. 777 was most probably brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian insurgents amid months of fighting that’s claimed more than 1,000 lives. Both Russia and the rebels blame Ukrainian forces.
The team plans to travel tomorrow to search an area northeast of the village of Rozsypne, where pieces of wreckage from the aircraft have also been found, Aalbersberg said. Rozsypne is about 8 kilometers (5 miles) by road west of Grabovo. The experts are based in Soledor, about 90 kilometers northwest. The search mission will be expanded to about 100 individuals the following day, if the security situation permits, he said.
The continuing conflict in the area was highlighted around noon local time, Aalbersberg said, when “there was mortar fire at a considerable distance from the police officers and experts at the chicken farm.” Officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe deemed there was no threat to the search group, which continued its work.
Rebels shot down a drone operated by government forces over the east of Ukraine yesterday, Defense Ministry spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in a televised briefing in Kiev today. The separatists used a Buk surface-to-air missile system similar to the one believed to have shot down MH17, he said.
Ukrainian forces also took control of two villages close to Donetsk as they advanced on the city, he said.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron put NATO’s relationship with Russia at the top of the agenda for the alliance’s summit in Wales next month, outlining proposals for military exercises, an improved joint response force and the stationing of equipment and supplies in eastern Europe.
“Six months into the Russia-Ukraine crisis, we must agree on long-term measures to strengthen our ability to respond quickly to any threat, to reassure those allies who fear for their own country’s security and to deter any Russian aggression,” Cameron wrote in a letter to fellow leaders of the bloc.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the conflict. The U.S. and its European Union allies, though, blame Putin for failing to rein in the insurgency and stop the war.
The EU blacklisted state-run Russian banks OAO Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank two days ago, barring them from selling shares or bonds in Europe as punishment for Putin’s policies in Ukraine. That’s part of the 28-nation bloc’s deepest sanctions yet, announced July 29, that include restrictions on the exports of equipment for Russia’s oil industry and curbs on arm sales.
Group of Seven countries will vote against approving new World Bank projects in Russia as punishment over Ukraine, according to three government officials with knowledge of the agreement. The action, which puts at least $1.5 billion of possible projects at risk, was decided by deputy finance ministers from the G-7 during a conference call last week, according to two of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the call wasn’t public.