Blasts as international monitors reach MH17 crash site for first time in a week

International observers have reached the crash site of the downed Malaysia Airlines plane in eastern Ukraine. It is the first time experts have been able to visit the scene in almost a week because of fierce fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels. The ongoing violence has frustrated efforts by investigators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s monitoring mission to reach the site to recover the remains of victims and examine the scene of the disaster, which claimed the lives of 298 people.

They will now only do initial reconnaissance, so that they can start searching as soon as possible during a later visit.

Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe

However, as observers arrived, there were reports of loud explosions with black smoke seen coming from a nearby village. A statement from the Dutch mission said a small team would carry out initial checks. Shortly before they reached the area, Malaysia’s prime minister called on the warring sides to agree to a ceasefire around the site. Earlier, Ukraine claimed it had suspended military operations but that separatists were continuing to attack its troops. But the rebels have accused Ukraine forces of breaching a ceasefire in the crash area.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine may not be easily resolved, but the people on board that plane had no part in it. We ask there be an immediate cessation of hostilities in and around the crash site by both Ukrainian and separatist forces.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak