Monday 18 December 2017

Ukrainian rebels deny threatening access to MH17 site

Instense fighting is still taking place between rebels and Ukraine at crash site. Reuters
Instense fighting is still taking place between rebels and Ukraine at crash site. Reuters
People ride motorcycles past the remains of a spent ammunition in the suburbs of Donetsk July 29, 2014.

Nigel Morris

Rebels in eastern Ukraine on yesterday denied they had threatened to ban the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from the crash site of Malaysian flight MH17.

The self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" (DNR) said in a statement that information published in some media that it was refusing to co-operate with the European rights and security body was not true.

"The DNR government has long been working effectively with the OSCE mission," a statement said, adding that areas of cooperation included investigation into the plane crash and ceasefire talks.

Earlier the rebels issued a statement saying they were going to halt cooperation with the OSCE, until now the main body tasked with negotiating access to the crash site for international experts, saying it was serving US and Ukrainian interests.

The OSCE did not immediately comment.

International experts, including the OSCE as well as Dutch and Australian police, have already been struggling to reach the site to recover the remaining body parts and investigate the downing of the plane.

Fierce fighting in the wider area surrounding the crash site prevented the experts from reaching it for the third successive day yesterday, with Kiev and the pro-Russian rebels accusing each other of blocking access.

Kiev and the rebels also trade accusations over responsibility for the downing of the airliner, in which all 298 people on board were killed.

Meanwhile, a new wave of sanctions against Russian banks and companies will be imposed within days by the European Union, supported by fresh action against President Vladimir Putin's closest allies.

The moves were agreed last night by EU leaders, 12 days after Flight MH17 was shot down with the loss of 298 lives over an area of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatist fighters.

The United States is about to announce similar action as the West attempts a co-ordinated move to force President Putin to de-escalate the civil war in Ukraine.

EU chiefs signalled they are ready to take further steps to hit the Russian economy if it continued to destabilise Ukraine or other eastern European countries.

And they condemned the failure of separatist forces to give unfettered access to air accident investigators to the MH17 disaster site.

US Secretary of State John Kerry accused the separatists of displaying "an appalling disrespect for human decency" in carrying on fighting close to the area.

David Cameron, who yesterday met relatives of British crash victims, said: "We want to make it absolutely clear that Russia's behaviour in destabilising another country, Ukraine, is unacceptable."

The sanctions, which will be reviewed after three months, will target the financial, energy and defence sectors. Exports of technology to the Russian oil industry will be also banned, although imports to EU countries are not affected by the move. (© Independent News Service)

Independent News Service

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