Saturday, 2 August 2014

MH17 Remains Found as Experts Walk Ukraine Tightrope

Investigators began searching the wreckage of Malaysian Air Flight MH17 after two weeks of delays, finding body parts and personal belongings of the victims as the pro-Russian revolt in eastern Ukraine raged on around them.
Dozens of forensics experts, mainly Dutch and Australian, followed scouts along a four-hour journey from the regional capital Donetsk to the chicken farm near the village of Grabovo where the bulk of the fuselage came down on July 17, according to Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the recovery mission.
“A number of human remains were found,” Aalbersberg said in an e-mailed statement. Those will be put in refrigerated rail cars and sent to the evacuation center in Kharkiv, from where they’ll be flown to Amsterdam, where the flight originated.
The U.S. and Ukraine say the Boeing Co. 777 was most likely brought down by a missile fired by pro-Russian insurgents amid months of fighting that has claimed more than 1,000 lives. Both Russia and the rebels blame Ukrainian forces. Aalbersberg the recovery effort will include fours teams of 20 experts each over the weekend, with a fifth team joining in a few days, when divers and sniffer dogs may be deployed, Aalbersberg said. The mission will take weeks to complete.

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images
A piece of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014. Close
A piece of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near… Read More

Photographer: Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images
A piece of the fuselage at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80km east of Donetsk, on July 25, 2014.
Former Soviet states from Ukraine to the Baltics said they were menaced by jets from neighboring Russia yesterday as fighting continued in the mainly Russian-speaking Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Jets Scramble

NATO jets were scrambled from a Lithuanian air base at about 9 a.m. today to “identify” Russian aircraft “flying without a pre-agreed schedule” in neutral waters near Estonia, according to a spokeswoman for Lithuania’s Defense Ministry, Viktorija Cieminyte. The Defense Ministry in Kiev said it downed a Russian drone inside Ukraine, one of several aircraft to violate the country’s airspace in the past two days.
“During the last 24 hours, terrorists fired on the checkpoints and positions of Ukrainian forces in a number of cities and villages,” Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, told reporters in Kiev yesterday. “Part of the shelling came from Russian territory.”
Russia is deploying Grad rocket systems and continues to build up artillery positions near the border, according to Lysenko. The Defense Ministry in Moscow declined to comment on any alleged violations of airspace.
The Interfax news service cited unidentified officials as saying Russia plans to call up military reservists for training exercies that will last at least through October. Scheduled maneuvers that began near Ukraine yesterday included about 30 helicopters and 300 pilots, according the Zvezda army website.

Obama, Putin

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin spoke by phone about the deepening crisis yesterday, during which Obama “reiterated his deep concerns about Russia’s increased support for the separatists,” the White House said in a statement.
Putin said the sanctions imposed against Russia as a result of the crisis in Ukraine have done “serious damage” to international relations, according to the Kremlin. Both sides stressed the importance of establishing an “immediate, sustainable cease-fire” to begin peace talks, the Kremlin said.
The leaders spoke after an assault by 150 rebels backed by three tanks near the city of Shakhtarsk left 10 government troops dead and 13 wounded, according to Ukrainian officials.

More Deaths

In the city of Luhansk, one of the main population centers of the rebel-held areas, five civilians were killed and nine wounded in the past 24 hours, according to the local council. The city of more than 400,000 people is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe because it has no electricity, water supply or mobile phone coverage, it said on its website.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who was elected after his Russian-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, was deposed after months of protests in February, reiterated in a television interview that Ukraine won’t negotiate over territory, including Crimea, which Russian annexed in March.
Putin, speaking at the opening of a monument to the soldiers of World War I in Moscow, said earlier yesterday that tragedies worldwide are caused by the ambitions of leaders and called for peace.
Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement in the conflict. The U.S. and its European Union allies, though, blame Putin for failing to rein in the insurgency and stop the war.

‘Substantial Problems’

The EU yesterday blacklisted state-run Russian banks OAO Sberbank, VTB Bank, Gazprombank, Vnesheconombank and Rosselkhozbank, barring them from selling shares or bonds in Europe as punishment for Putin’s policies in Ukraine. That’s part of the 28-nation bloc’s deepest sanctions yet, announced July 29, that includes restrictions on the exports of equipment for Russia’s oil industry and curbs on arm sales.
While the measures create “substantial problems” for Russian banks, they are “unlikely to significantly alter,” the Kremlin’s policy in Ukraine, Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst at Eurasia Group in London, said by e-mail.
“The likelihood of continued Russian actions in support of the separatists make additional level 3 sanctions probable this fall,” Rahman said.
Group of Seven countries will vote against approving new World Bank projects in Russia as punishment over Ukraine, according to three government officials with knowledge of the agreement. The action, which puts at least $1.5 billion of possible projects at risk, was decided by deputy finance ministers from the G-7 during a conference call last week, according to two of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the call wasn’t public.
The World Bank will have trouble getting approval for projects in the face of opposition from the G-7, which has more than 40 percent of votes on the bank’s board, said Scott Morris, a former deputy assistant secretary for development finance and debt at the U.S. Treasury Department.
“It will be very difficult for management to contemplate proceeding with anything that requires board approval,” said Morris, a senior associate at the Center for Global Development, an aid research group in Washington.
To contact the reporters on this story: Volodymyr Verbyany in Kiev at; Daria Marchak in Kiev at
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at Brad Cook
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