More international observers going to MH17 crash site - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

More international observers going to MH17 crash site

Posted: Updated:
Human remains are being found amid the debris by international  observers at the crash scene in eastern Ukraine. (Source: CNN) Human remains are being found amid the debris by international observers at the crash scene in eastern Ukraine. (Source: CNN)
Officers at the Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands salute a plane carrying remains of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash victims. (Source: CNN) Officers at the Eindhoven Airport in the Netherlands salute a plane carrying remains of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash victims. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) - The European Union is sanctioning 15 more people and 18 more entities over the Ukraine crisis, the European Council said Friday. This brings the total number subject to EU visa bans and asset freezes because of the crisis to 87, and the number of entities to 20.

The Netherlands is stepping up efforts to try to ensure that the remains of all the victims of the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 return home from Ukraine, the Dutch prime minister told CNN.

More than 200 body bags have been transferred by train from the crash site in war-torn eastern Ukraine. But officials say it's unclear how many individual victims' remains are contained in the bags, warning it's likely that more are still at the crash site.

"We will increase our effort to bring home all the victims of this disaster," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told CNN's Anderson Cooper on Thursday. "We will send into the crash site a large number of people from the Netherlands -- experts, forensic experts, people from the police who are trained to deal with this type of work."

He said the Dutch officials would begin their work Friday and from Sunday onward would have around 50 personnel at the site. The Netherlands had 193 of its citizens among the 298 people on Flight 17, none of whom survived.

'I want to get to the bottom of this'

Accusations over who was responsible for bringing down the passenger jet continue to be traded by the Ukrainian government, pro-Russian rebels and officials in Moscow and Washington.

Flight 17 was downed last week by a suspected surface-to-air missile over eastern Ukraine, where groups of pro-Russian rebels are fighting Ukrainian government forces. The rebels have denied allegations that they brought down the commercial airliner using equipment supplied by Russia.

Rutte told CNN that he has spoken on the phone six times with Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation, but he questioned the value of the constant rounds of claims and counterclaims.

"I want to get to the bottom of this," he said. "I don't believe I'm furthering the process or helping the process by pointing my finger. I want to base this on evidence from our intelligence community and be working very closely together with the American and other intelligence communities."

Crash site tensions

But tension and confusion continue to plague the crash site, which is located in an unstable area controlled by pro-Russian rebels whom the United States accuses of shooting down the plane.

Officials accused the rebels who control the crash area of preventing recovery workers Thursday from searching for more bodies.

Sergey Bochkovskiy, the head of Ukraine's State Emergency Services, said Thursday that "terrorists" cut off access to the area after a train carrying remains from to the city of Kharkiv left a nearby station earlier this week.

"You call them terrorists, we call them culprits, as they do not give us access to the site," said Jan Tuinder, head of the Dutch police team.

Investigators find more debris, remains

However, CNN's Phil Black was with a small team of international officials being escorted by rebels into the debris field Thursday - the biggest international presence seen so far at the crash site.

The group included observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and investigators and diplomats from Malaysia and Australia.

The investigators expressed surprise at the sheer scale of the debris field and at the fact that a week after the crash, there was still no exclusion zone surrounding it, according to the observers.

Black reported there appeared to be no ongoing effort at that time to find and retrieve victims' bodies. OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said the group saw human remains among the debris for the second day in a row.

For the first time, the team looked beyond the grassy fields where much of the wreckage came down.

They pushed into a dense forested area, where they found small scattered pieces, but also the largest single piece of MH17's fuselage to be discovered so far.

The forest appeared to have cushioned its impact, leaving some of the windows still intact.

Australia sending police

Rutte told CNN that the Netherlands aims to "rebuild our capacity in the field at the crash site to recover the remaining remains and, as much as possible, their personal belongings."

Australia, which had 27 of its citizens on board the plane, says it has 90 police officers in Europe and is sending another 100 with a view to their joining a planned international deployment to provide security at the crash site.

"Australia is close to finalizing an agreement with Ukraine for the deployment of Australian police, some of whom could be armed," Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said at a news conference Friday.

"What we want to do is claim our dead and bring them home," he said.

The Netherlands has said it is sending 40 unarmed military police to Ukraine, and that they're expected to arrive Saturday.

But questions remain about what kind of access and control the rebels around the site will allow the foreign officials.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said Friday that the OSCE observers would help talk to the rebels to try to enable access for the police officers.

Coffins arrive in Netherlands

The remains in the body bags that were taken by train to Kharkiv are being transported to the Netherlands in a series of flights that began Wednesday.

As the coffins have been brought off military cargo planes at an airport in Eindhoven, they have been received in solemn ceremonies.

The bodies' arrival in the Netherlands contrasts starkly with their initial treatment at the crash site, where they were left exposed to the elements for days, and in some cases, according to Dutch officials, stripped of personal belongings.

The transfer to the Netherlands of the remains that were brought to Kharkiv is expected to be completed by Saturday, according to Rutte. The work to identify them, by at least 200 international experts, is likely to take weeks or even months.

Copyright 2014 CNN. All rights reserved. 

Powered by WorldNow