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Ukraine

Dutch premier Rutte says armed mission to MH17 site 'not realistic'

The Dutch prime minister has said a proposal for an international mission to be sent to secure the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine is unrealistic. Ukrainian troops are instead engaged in fighting to take the site.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government rejected the proposal of deploying armed troops, claiming there was no way of achieving military superiority.

"Getting the military upper hand for an international mission in this area is, according to our conclusion, not realistic…. Not even if we choose for a massive military commitment," Rutte told journalists in The Hague.

The notion of a Dutch and Australian-led international mission to secure the site with armed personnel had been put forward amid concerns that evidence and bodies could have gone missing. Rebels still retain primary control of the area.

However, Rutte - mentioning the presence of heavily armed separatists and the proximity of the border with Russia - said such a move only risked exacerbating the situation.

"We concluded with our international partners that there's a real risk of such an international military mission becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine," Rutte said. Of the 298 people killed in the disaster, 193 were Dutch.

Dutch and Australian police officers were forced to drop their plans for a visit to the site on Sunday as heavy shelling rocked nearby towns.

Ukrainian armed forces on Sunday engaged in a major offensive against separatists to gain full control of the crash site.

US 'satellite evidence'

Meanwhile, the US State Department released satellite images which it claims show that rockets had been fired from within Russia into Ukrainian territory, and that artillery had crossed the border into Ukraine's restive east.

Moscow has denied involvement in the allegations that it has provided support for the rebels and accuses the US of waging "an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia, ever more relying on lies."

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on Sunday that defense and intelligence officials were working on a plan to allow Ukraine access to the specific locations of surface-to-air missiles controlled by Russian-backed separatists. If implemented, the plan would allow the Ukraine government to target the sites for destruction, the newspaper said.

rc/lw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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