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Ukraine

International team cancels visit to MH17 crash site amid fighting

Continued fighting in eastern Ukraine has impeded international police from travelling to the crash site of MH17. The group has said it will reattempt its visit on Monday if conditions improve.

International police on Sunday announced the cancelation of a scheduled to trip the site in eastern Ukraine where Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed. Safety concerns had prompted the decision, according to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

"The situation on the ground appears to be unsafe ... we therefore decided to deploy tomorrow morning…if the situation changes," OSCE deputy head Alexander Hug told reporters.

"We can't take the risk," Hug said, adding that conditions at the site were "unacceptable for our unarmed observer mission."

The Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia are working together to deploy observers to the area where they will be tasked with the securing the site and recovering victims' remains and aircraft wreckage.

The majority of the passengers on board flight MH17 were Dutch nationals. Thirty-eight were Australian citizens or residents and 43 were Malaysian. The disaster claimed a total of 298 lives. US and Ukrainian officials say the plane was likely shot down by mistake by separatist rebels.

Despite numerous problems with accessing the crash site, observers have been able to transport 227 coffins to the Netherlands for identification.

Heavy fighting

Earlier in the day, pro-Russian separatists who control the site had agreed to grant the international police access to the area in order "to provide protection for international crash investigators," Malaysian Prime Minister Najbi Raza said in a statement.

However, heavy fighting between Ukrainian government troops and the separatist rebels broke out across several cities, including in Shakhtarsk, which lies some 10 miles (15 kilometers) west of the crash site.

"All our troops are aiming to get there and liberate this territory so that we can guarantee that international experts can carry out a 100 percent investigation of the site and get all proof needed to deduce the real reason for this tragedy," said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council, said, according to news agency Reuters.

There were further reports of fighting in the towns of Debaltseve and Korlivka. News agency AFP reported that at least 13 people had been killed in the violence on Sunday.

kms/dr (AP, AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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