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Dutch, Australian Experts Reach MH17 Debris Field In Ukraine

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has some good news this morning:

Remember, experts from Australia and The Netherlands have been trying to get to the debris field of the downed Malaysia Airlines jet in eastern Ukraine for a week. Every time they attempted a trip, they were thwarted by heavy fighting.

Speaking to CNN, OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said that for the first time senior experts were at the scene of the tragedy to begin their investigation.

Bociurkiw said he was standing at the perimeter of the field and he could still smell the stench of the remains.

It was two weeks ago that the U.S. says Ukrainian rebels fired a missile that downed a Malaysia Airlines 777 carrying 298 passengers. Some of the remains of the dead have already been flown out of Ukraine, but some still languished in that open field.

The team, Bociurkiw said, is prepared to recover those remains.

"We will finally give those remains proper care and dignity," Bociurkiw said.

Giving experts access to the site became an international affair. Earlier this month, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on a resolution that called for unrestricted access to the scene for investigators.

It was just a few days ago that Secretary of State John Kerry denounced the separatists who control that area of Ukraine. He said by continuing their fighting and keeping experts away from the debris field, they "displayed an appalling disregard for human decency."

Bociurkiw told CNN he was confident that the Dutch and Australian experts would now have continued access to the site.

Update at 8:05 a.m. ET. Suspending Military Operations:

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports that Ukraine has suspended military operations in the area.

Reporting from Moscow, Corey filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"The Ukrainian government said on its website that it is stopping fighting in response to an appeal from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The statement said that Ukrainian soldiers will only shoot back if their positions are attacked. Aviation experts and police from the Netherlands, Australia and Malaysia have been trying to reach the wreckage site for days, but have been turned back by heavy fighting.

"Meanwhile, experts from Russia's aviation agency say they will attempt to join the investigation, if it's safe to reach the wreckage site.

"Dutch and Ukrainian experts declined to comment on the Russian offer."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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