News / Europe

19 Killed in Fierce Fighting Around Ukraine Crash Site

A convoy of International forensic experts, Dutch and Australian policemen and members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine approach Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 28, 2014.
A convoy of International forensic experts, Dutch and Australian policemen and members of the OSCE mission in Ukraine approach Shakhtarsk, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 28, 2014.

Intense fighting between Ukrainian troops and pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine killed at least 19 civilians, local officials said on Tuesday, as Kyiv pressed an offensive to close in on the separatists.

Ukrainian forces have been pushing rebel units back towards their two main urban strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk and have sought to encircle them in several places, including in the wider area where a Malaysian airliner crashed on July 17.

Officials said 14 people, including five children, were killed in fighting on Monday evening in the town of Gorlovka/Horlivka, one of several spots that saw fierce battles between the rival forces in the last few days.

In the city of Luhansk, officials said five civilians were killed when shelling hit a retirement home.

“The enemy is throwing everything it has into the battle to complete encirclement of the DNR,” rebel commander Igor Strelkov told journalists in Donetsk on Monday evening, referring to the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People's Republic”.

“We were astonished by how much amour they threw into this battle,” said Strelkov, a Russian national, sporting a camouflage T-shirt and trousers.

Rebel claims

A rebel source in Donetsk said reinforcements including military equipment and fighters had crossed the nearby border with Russia into Ukraine. Reuters was not able to confirm that independently.

Rebel leaders insist publicly that Moscow is not supplying them. Russia also denies Western accusations that it is supporting the rebellion with arms and troops.

Leaders of the United States and major European powers agreed in a teleconference on Monday to impose wider sanctions on Russia's banking, technology and arms sectors over its alleged backing for the separatists.

The rebels say 7,400 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured since Kyiv launched what it calls its “anti-terrorist” operation against separatists in the east in early May. Kyiv puts the toll at fewer than 1,500.

A humanitarian corridor was due to open in Luhansk for six hours on Tuesday to allow residents to flee the fighting, but officials said they could not guarantee full safety.

The United Nations says more than 100,000 people have already fled Ukraine's tumultuous east.

Fighting blocks crash site access

A team of international experts including 38 Dutch and 12 Australian police will try to get to the plane crash site for a third day on Tuesday after fighting in the rebel-held area forced them to turn back on Sunday and Monday.

Fighting has impeded recovery of some of the remains from flight MH17 and undermined a probe that will be crucial as Kiev and the West trade recriminations with Moscow over the downing of the Boeing airliner. All 298 people on board were killed.

The international experts said if and when they get to the crash site, spread over a large area of fields, their first priority would be to recover any remaining body parts and then remove personal belongings from the area.

The Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the first international body to get several experts to the site after the plane went down, was negotiating an access corridor overnight with both rebels and Ukrainian troops.

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Comment Sorting
by: Not Again from: Canada
July 29, 2014 4:50 PM
The humanitarian evacuation corridors should be monitored by OSCE, or other international orgs, to assure that civilians are allowed free passage; and to ensure that the terrorists are not preventing people from leaving.
Most of the time terrorists hold civilians as hostages and use them as shields. There have been reports of mass graves and numerous people, especially pro-Ukraine persons, being arbitrarly apprehended, followed by their disappearance, in terrorist controlled areas. Sometimes terrorists agree to evacuation corridors for the sole purpose of identifying civilians that do not hold the terrorits' views, thus an evacuation corridor, if not staffed by independent observers, becomes the end time for innocent civilians that do not support terrorists. It is vclear that the safety of civilians is not a priority for the dastardly terrorists, after all they did shoot down MH17.
Upon the evacuation, the civilians need to be interviewed to find out if any one obstructed them, and if they witnessed any apprehensions by the terroristst, while their memories are fresh... all of this is very serious work that needs to be done to prevent massacres of civilians.

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