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Ukraine

Ukraine willing to hand MH17 crash investigation over to West

Kyiv has said it is willing to hand control of the MH17 crash investigation over to Western authorities. Amid fresh fighting in Donetsk, Dutch investigators have arrived in east Ukraine to inspect recovered bodies.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseni Yatsenyuk told reporters in Kyiv on Monday that he was willing to let international partners take over the MH17 crash investigation, adding he was convinced the plane was shot down by "professionals."

"Ukraine is ready to hand over a coordinating role in the investigation into the tragedy to our Western partners. And the Netherlands could head that process," Yatsenyuk said. More than half of the passengers - 193 total - were Dutch citizens.

"At the moment, we have no doubt that the plane was shot down. The reason for it - a missile strike most likely from a BUK-M1 [SA-11 radar-guided missile system]. It is clear that this system could not be operated by a drunk pro-Russian terrorist. There were professional people," he added, implying Moscow had a role in the incident.

Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it was downed in east Ukraine on Thursday in an apparent surface-to-air missile attack. All 298 passengers and crew were killed, and the recovery effort in the country's rebel-controlled region is ongoing.

The remains of some 250 victims are currently in train wagons near the crash site. A pair of Dutch investigators arrived in the area on Monday, opening each of the rail cars to examine the corpses. Yatsenyuk said that Kiev was ready to "send all the bodies to Amsterdam."

Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte told Parliament his government's priority was to recover and identify the bodies of the flight's Dutch victims. He urged Russia to to use its "influence on the separatists to improve the situation on the ground."

Two experts from the German air accident investigation authority (BFU) arrived in Kyiv Monday and are attempting to make their way to the heavily-guarded crash site, a spokesman for the authority said. Four Germans were among those killed in the crash.

'Enough already'

Yatsenyuk said of Russia's role in Ukraine's ongoing struggle with separatist fighters in the east that President Vladimir Putin should understand "it's enough already."

"I do not expect anything from the Russian government," he said. "They supplied weapons, they sent in fighters. Putin should understand that it's enough already. This is not conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It's an international conflict.

"Russia is on the dark side, on the side of the devil," Yatsenyuk added.

Later on Monday, the UN Security Council is due to vote on a resolution demanding the separatists grant unrestricted access to the airliner crash site. Putin echoed the UN's call, saying "everything must be done to guarantee the security of international experts at the site of the tragedy."

Fighting in Donetsk

As Yatsenyuk spoke to reporters, government and separatist forces clashed near a train station in Donetsk. Witnesses reported hearing loud explosions and seeing plumes of smoke as separatists battled with Ukrainian forces.

The Donetsk city council warned citizens of the violence in a statement, urging residents in affected areas "not to go out and not to leave their homes and apartments."

A Ukraine military spokesman said their operation in the east was in an "active phase" but would not comment on reports of troops entering Donetsk.

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

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