MH17 crash: Dutch PM rules out military mission to secure site

Dutch PM Mark Rutte, 27 July 2014 Dutch PM Mark Rutte says a military deployment would be unrealistic

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says sending out an international military force to secure the site of the downed Malaysian Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine is "unrealistic".

The site is currently controlled by pro-Russia rebels who have been accused of shooting down flight MH17.

All 298 people on board - most of them Dutch - died.

In the latest fighting in the area, 13 people were killed as troops try to seize Horlivka from the rebels.

Separately, the US has released images to back its claim of Russian firing into Ukraine.

The images, showing marks on the ground and impact craters, suggest fire from multiple rocket launchers, the US state department says.

The pictures also indicate the separatists are using heavy artillery supplied by Russia, it added.

Russia denies supplying the rebels with heavy weaponry or firing across the frontier with Ukraine.

'Risk'

The rebels have been accused of shooting flight MH17 down by mistake, but Russia blames the Ukrainian military, an allegation Ukraine denies.

Damaged buildings in Horlivka, 27 July 2014 The Ukrainian army is trying to regain control of Horlivka from the rebels

The crash site has yet to be properly investigated and some bodies have still not been recovered. An international push is under way to get the site secured.

However, Mr Rutte, speaking to reporters in The Hague, said: "Getting the military upper hand for an international mission in this area is, according to our conclusion, not realistic."

He said it would be "such a provocation to the separatists that it could destabilise the situation".

Mr Rutte said all options were being looked at. The Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia had been considering a joint operation.

Dutch experts on Sunday cancelled plans to head to the site after international officials said fighting in the region was still going on.

Jan Tuinder, leader of the Dutch investigation team: "We need Ukrainian support"

"We can't take the risk," said Alexander Hug, of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

There are still plans for Australia and the Netherlands to deploy 49 police officers, following a deal struck by Malaysia with the rebels to allow international police at the site.

"Our objective is to get in, get cracking and to get out," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said.

The eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have been gripped by heavy fighting as government forces try to retake rebel strongholds.

Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's security council, said Ukrainian forces were advancing towards the town of Shakhtarsk, 25km (16 miles) from the crash site.

He said the Ukrainian government hoped to "liberate territory" around the downed plane to provide security for international inspectors.

Shelling was also reported close to the site, near the town of Grabove, on Sunday.

Separately, in an interview with Ukraine's Inter TV, Defence Minister Valeriy Heletey confirmed that a column of 41 troops had crossed into Russian territory. An investigation was taking place, he added.

Earlier, Russian media reports said the servicemen had defected to Russia.

Images from US state department purporting to show evidence of Russian firing across the border into Ukraine, 26 July 2014 The US state department says these images show where multiple rocket launchers have been used to fire from Russia into Ukraine

Rebels have prevented journalists going to the crash site and Ukrainian government forces are said to be nearby, says the BBC's Tom Burridge, in eastern Ukraine.

A total of 227 coffins containing the remains of the victims have been sent for identification to the Netherlands, which is leading the crash investigation.

The first MH17 victim has been identified, though officials did not reveal any details.

Cows graze near wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Grabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 26, 2014. There are fears vital evidence will be lost as the scene of the crash is disturbed by separatists and locals
The column of funeral hearses drive near Nieuwegein after leaving the airbase in Eindhoven to Hilversum, The Netherlands, 26 July 2014, The victims' remains have been taken to the Dutch town of Hilversum for identification

Officials say the exact number of bodies already collected will be determined only after forensic experts have completed their examination.

Russia said on Sunday it had set up its own team of experts to investigate the plane crash, according to RIA Novosti agency.

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