Australia, Netherlands seek MH17 crash site access


The Netherlands and Australia are seeking access to the MH17 crash site in Ukraine, as more planes with victims’ bodies landed in Eindhoven.

Foreign ministers from both countries attended a ceremony marking the departures in the city of Kharkiv.

Separately the EU has formally announced that it is strengthening sanctions against Russia.

It says that “15 further persons and 18 entities” have been subjected to an asset freeze and a visa ban.

A statement says that those targeted are “responsible for action against Ukraine’s territorial integrity”.

“This brings the number of persons currently under EU sanctions in connection with the situation in Ukraine to 87 while the number of entities will rise to 20,” the statement issued on behalf of the Council for the European Union said.

The statement also said that the Council had decided to introduce measures which pave the way for “imposing asset freezes and visa bans on persons and entities that actively support or are benefiting from Russian decision-makers responsible for the annexation of Crimea or the destabilisation of eastern Ukraine”.

‘Bring home everybody’

The Dutch and Australian Foreign Ministers, Frans Timmermans and Julie Bishop are negotiating with Ukrainian officials in Kiev to send police to the crash site which is controlled by pro-Russia rebels amid continuing fighting.

Rebels have been accused of shooting down the Malaysia Airlines plane.

All 298 people on board the flight died in the crash on 17 July, including 193 Dutch citizens, 43 Malaysians and 27 Australians.

About 200 bodies were recovered and transported to Kharkiv, which is outside rebel territory.

The first coffins carrying victims of the crash arrived by plane in the Netherlands on Wednesday for forensic identification.

A second batch arrived on Thursday and two more aircraft – reported by Dutch media to be carrying 75 bodies – arrived in Eindhoven on Friday afternoon.

Australian leader Tony Abbott on Friday said an additional 100 police would be deployed to Europe, joining 90 officers in London awaiting permission to enter and secure the crash site.

He described it as “a humanitarian mission with a clear and simple objective to bring them home”.

Dutch investigators have faced difficulties gaining access to the rebel-controlled crash site in eastern Ukraine, amid continuing fighting there.

With remains still being found one week on, experts warn it could be months before all victims are identified.

The US says it believes that rebels shot down flight MH17 with a Russian-provided SA-11 Buk surface-to-air missile, probably by mistake. Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.

Leading rebels in eastern Ukraine have given conflicting accounts of whether they had control of a Buk launcher at the time the plane was downed.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine erupted in April and is believed to have claimed more than 1,000 lives.