European security monitors and international crash experts have reached the crash site of a Malaysian airliner in eastern Ukraine two weeks after the plane came down, as an international meeting in Belarus agreed to establish a safe corridor for the team to use during their investigation.
Fighting between pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces in the wider area has frustrated international experts’ efforts to get to the site to recover remains of the victims and investigate the crash.
“OSCE … monitors reach MH17 crash site for first time in almost week, accompanied by four Dutch, Australian experts. Used new route to access,” the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, a Vienna-based organisation, said on Twitter on Thursday.
The small reconnaissance team would make initial checks of the area, a statement from the Dutch mission said.
“They will now only do initial reconnaissance, so that they can start searching as soon as possible during a later visit,” it added.
Most of the international experts remained in the nearby provincial capital of Donetsk, now the main rebel stronghold in the east.
Deal on safe corridor
Meanwhile, envoys from Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE agreed to establish a safe corridor to the crash site to keep the route used by monitors and experts open, Volodymyr Groisman, the Ukrainian deputy prime minister.
He added that agreement was reached at talks in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, on Thursday.
“The working ‘Contact Group’ agreed that the corridor… will be supported by a halt in any military operations by the rebels on the route,” Groisman told a briefing in Kiev.
It was not immediately clear whether the pro-Russian rebels were represented at the Minsk talks, Reuters said.
Kiev and the rebels accuse one another of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on July 17, killing all 298 on board.
Data from recovered flight recorders shows the plane was punctured multiple times by shrapnel and suffered an explosive loss of pressure, Ukrainian security spokesman Andrei Lysenko said on Monday.
Separatists handed over flight recorder information of the airliner to Malaysian experts earlier in July.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s parliament on Thursday voted not to accept the resignation of Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the Ukrainian prime minister.
Yatsenyuk had said last week he was resigning after the breakup of his ruling coalition and squabbling over funding essential to fund the country’s war against pro-Russian separatists.
President Petro Poroshenko had urged MPs and the government to find a compromise and keep the parliament working.