Experts Reach Ukraine Crash Site 08/01 06:22
A team of several dozen international investigators descended Friday on the
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in eastern Ukraine to begin combing an
area now designated as a crime scene.
HRABOVE, Ukraine (AP) -- A team of several dozen international investigators
descended Friday on the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site in eastern
Ukraine to begin combing an area now designated as a crime scene.
A few hours earlier, at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers were killed when their
convoy was ambushed by pro-Russian separatist rebels in a town close to the
wreckage site. Defense officials said another 13 servicemen remained
unaccounted for after the attack.
Investigators from the Netherlands and Australia, along with accompanying
officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,
traveled in 15 cars and one bus to the crash site, outside the village of
By midday, they began setting up base at a chicken farm for an operation
that will initially focus on recovering several dozen bodies still remaining.
As the expert team prepared equipment for the search operation, rounds of
artillery could be heard periodically falling somewhere in the distance.
In addition to tracking down human remains, the team aims to retrieve the
belongings of the 298 people killed when the Boeing 777 was shot down last
A small advance team managed to perform an initial survey of the area for
the first time Thursday. For days, clashes along routes to the wreckage site
had kept investigators from reaching the area to find and retrieve bodies that
have been decaying in the 90-degree (32 C) midsummer heat. Independent
observers warned that there has been tampering with evidence.
An Australian police official told reporters Friday that the wreckage would
be officially designated a crime scene and that it would be divided into zones
that will be systematically searched for evidence.
It is believed up to 80 bodies may still remain uncollected at the crash
site, which is sprawled in a broad area across fields between two villages.
The team's drive to the area took them from their base in the rebel capital
of Donetsk, through the government-held town of Debaltseve, and back into the
separatist-controlled territory, where the wreckage lies. At Debaltseve, the
convoy was joined by three vehicles from the International Committee of the Red
Despite both sides in the ongoing conflict in east Ukraine tentatively
agreeing to a cease-fire around the crash zone, fighting is continuing nearby.
The deadly attack by rebels on government troops Friday morning took place
less than 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the crash site, outside the town of
Shakhtarsk, which has been the object of sustained battles for several days and
still remains in rebel hands.
Defense officials said in a statement that an army convoy was struck by
mortars during redeployment.
Ukraine security spokesman Vladislav Seleznev said the attack took place at
6 a.m., before the end of the 24-hour "day of quiet" declared Thursday in
response to a call for a cease-fire from U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
"The militants are behaving in a cowardly and shameless fashion," Seleznev
said. "The used the 'day of quiet' just to fire on us."
Another Ukraine defense spokesman, Andriy Lysenko, said another 13 soldiers
have been reported missing in action after the attack.
Seleznev said the bodies of another four people killed in the incident have
not yet been identified.
Ukrainian forces have latterly focused their strategy on driving a wedge
into an area between the largest rebel-controlled cities, Donetsk and Luhansk.
Shakhtarsk lies on one of two highways linking those cities.
In Donetsk, meanwhile, one person was killed Friday and three others were
wounded when mortar fire struck a minibus carrying passengers near the central
train station was struck by mortar fire, city hall spokesman Maxim Rovensky.
The city government in Luhansk said five residents were killed and nine
wounded as a result of shelling over the past day.
Neither of the city halls specified who they believe was responsible for the