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Police Team Retreats From MH17 Site    07/28 06:16

   An international police team abandoned its attempt to reach the crash site 
of a Malaysia Airlines plane for a second day running Monday as clashes raged 
in a town on the road to the area.

   SHAKHTARSK, Ukraine (AP) -- An international police team abandoned its 
attempt to reach the crash site of a Malaysia Airlines plane for a second day 
running Monday as clashes raged in a town on the road to the area.

   With government troops intensifying their push to claw back more territory 
from pro-Russian separatist rebels, the death toll is mounting steadily. The 
United Nations released new figures Monday showing that more than 1,100 people 
have died in more than four months of fighting.

   The international delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic 
experts stopped Monday in Shakhtarsk, a town around 20 miles (30 kilometers) 
from the fields where the Boeing 777 was brought down.

   Sounds of regular shelling could be heard from Shakhtarsk and residents were 
seen fleeing town in cars.

   Associated Press reporters saw a high-rise apartment block in Shakhtarsk 
being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

   The mandate of the police team is to secure the currently rebel-controlled 
area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies 
can be recovered.

   Their visit was canceled Sunday amid safety concerns.

   Ukraine has accused rebels of tampering with evidence and trying to cover up 
their alleged role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines plane down with an 
anti-aircraft missile.

   Separatist officials have staunchly denied responsibility for shooting down 
the airliner and killing all 298 people onboard.

   A Ukrainian security spokesman said Monday that data from the recovered 
flight recorders shows Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed due to a massive, 
explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel. 
Andrei Lysenko said the plane suffered "massive explosive decompression" after 
it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.

   The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination.

   In their campaign to wrest control over more territory from separatist 
forces, Ukraine's army has deployed a growing amount of heavy weaponry. Rebels 
have also been able to secure large quantities of powerful weapons, much of 
which the United States and Ukraine maintain is being supplied by Russia.

   Moscow dismisses those charges.

   While Russia and Ukraine trade accusations, the death toll has been mounting 
swiftly.

   The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report out Monday that 
at least 1,129 people have been killed between mid-April, when fighting began, 
and July 26. The report said at least 3,442 people had been wounded and more 
than 100,000 people had left their homes. A U.N. report from mid-June put the 
death toll at 356.

   At least eight civilians were killed by fighting and shelling in two cities 
held by separatist militants overnight Sunday, officials in the 
rebellion-wracked region said.

   Authorities in Luhansk said that five people were killed and 15 injured by 
overnight artillery strikes. Three were killed in Donetsk as a result of 
clashes, the city's government said.

   Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential 
areas. Authorities deny that charge, but also complain of insurgents using 
apartment blocks as firing positions.

   The U.N. said in its report that rebel groups continue to "abduct, detain, 
torture and execute people kept as hostages in order to intimidate" the 
population in the east. It said rule of law had collapsed in the rebel-held 
areas and that 812 people had been abducted in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions 
since mid-April.

   It also reported heavy damage to electrical, water and sewage plants and 
estimated the costs of rebuilding at $750 million --- money the government 
would have to find by cutting social programs.

   The U.S. State Department on Sunday released satellite images that it says 
back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern 
Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

   Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims Monday during a 
televised press conference, asking "why it took 10 days" before the U.S. 
released the images.

   A four-page document released by the State Department appears to show blast 
marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials 
said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show 
heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 --- after the July 17 downing 
of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

   The images could not be independently verified by The Associated Press.


(KA)


 
 
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