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Malaysia Says Ukraine Separatists To Allow Int'l Police At Crash Site

A pro-Russian separatist mans a checkpoint 25 kilometers from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on July 23.
A pro-Russian separatist mans a checkpoint 25 kilometers from the rebel stronghold of Donetsk on July 23.

Malaysia says it has agreed with Ukrainian rebels to allow international police personnel access to the crash site of Flight MH17.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's office said on July 27 police would be allowed to enter the area in eastern Ukraine "to provide protection for international crash investigators."

The agreement was reached with separatist leader Aleksandr Borodai.

Malaysia was earlier able to persuade Borodai to turn over the black boxes of Flight MH17, which went down after being struck by a missile over Ukraine, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

Western media report that a dozen Dutch policemen in armored SUVs had set off for the site late morning local time, and subsequent photos showed them in Donetsk.

The Dutch Justice Ministry said the team was able to travel following an agreement the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) made with the pro-Russian separatists.

The head of the Dutch crash investigation mission in Ukraine, Jan Tuinder, told reporters on July 26 in Kharkiv that the Dutch government is sending policemen to Kharkiv.

"This police mission is to be set up to get the last human remains and personal belongings -- which are left behind in the place where the disaster took place, at the crash zone -- to bring these remains and these belongings back home," Tuinder said.

The Dutch are in charge of victim identification and leading the probe into what caused the crash.

Rebel interference and security concerns have so far limited investigators' access to the site.

Meanwhile, Australia is sending 190 police and 40 troops to the Netherlands to participate in a planned Dutch-led operation to secure the crash site.

Australia said July 27 "a number" of armed personnel will enter the MH17 crash site in separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine next week but stressed they would be a "nonthreatening force" not accompanied by military troops.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said some of the Australian team at the site would carry weapons to protect investigators.

Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over a part of eastern Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists last week, killing nearly 300 people on board.

U.S., U.K., and Ukrainian officials say it was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.

A truce has been called in the immediate area around the site by both Kyiv forces and the separatists, but combat has been raging just 60 kilometers away, with loud explosions heard at regular intervals in western and northern suburbs of rebel stronghold Donetsk.

Based on reporting by dpa and AFP
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