Police team turns back from Ukraine crash site

Jul 28 2014, 19:59 IST
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SummaryGovernment troops have stepped up their push to win back territory from pro-Russian separatists in fighting that the United Nations ...

Heavy fighting raged Monday around the Malaysia Airlines debris field, once again preventing an international police team charged with securing the site from even getting there.

Government troops have stepped up their push to win back territory from pro-Russian separatists in fighting that the United Nations said Monday has killed more than 1,100 people in four months.

The international delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts stopped Monday in Shakhtarsk, a town around 20 miles (30 kilometers) from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.

Sounds of regular shelling could be heard from Shakhtarsk and residents were seen fleeing town in cars.

Associated Press reporters saw a high-rise apartment block in Shakhtarsk being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

The mandate of the police team is to secure the currently rebel-controlled area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies can be recovered.

The second cancelled site visit over two days has strained tempers among the observation team.

''There a job to be done,'' said Alexander Hug, the deputy head of a monitoring team from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. ''We are sick and tired of being interrupted by gunfights, despite the fact that we have agreed that there should be a ceasefire.''

The Defense Ministry says Ukrainian troops have entered Shakhtarsk, although checkpoints blocking the western entrance into town remain under rebel control. It also said fighting was taking place in Snizhne, which lies directly south of the crash site, and in other towns in the east.

The self-declared Donetsk People's Republic said on its official Twitter that fighting was ongoing in the village of Rozsypne, where some of the wreckage still lays strewn and uncollected.

The head of the rebel's military headquarters, Igor Ivanov, told Russian state news agency RIA-Novosti that the village had fallen into government hands, but that information could not immediately be confirmed.

Ukraine has accused rebels of tampering with evidence at the plane crash site and trying to cover up their alleged role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines jet down with an anti-aircraft missile.

Separatist officials have staunchly denied responsibility for shooting down the airliner and killing all 298 people onboard.

A Ukrainian security spokesman said Monday that data from the recovered flight recorders shows Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. Andrei Lysenko said the plane suffered ''massive

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