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MH17 crash: Investigators set up base in chicken farm


With the sound of artillery fire in the distance, dozens of international investigators arrived today at the zone where a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine and began preparations to comb the countryside for remains of as many as 80 victims and jet debris.

Several hours before they arrived, at least 10 Ukrainian soldiers were killed when their convoy was ambushed by pro-Russian separatist rebels in a town close to the wreckage site. Thirteen more soldiers were unaccounted for after the attack, officials said, and the bodies of four more people were being examined to determine whether they were soldiers or rebels.

The investigators from the Netherlands and Australia plus officials with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) travelled from the rebel-held city of Donetsk in 15 cars and a bus to the crash site outside the village of Hrabove. Then they started setting up a base to work from at a chicken farm. As they prepared equipment, artillery fire was heard.

The investigative team’s top priority is to recover human remains that have been rotting in midsummer heat since the plane went down on 17 July. They will also try to retrieve the belongings of the 298 people killed who were aboard the Boeing 777.


Ukraine and the West contend the plane was shot down by the rebels with a Russian-supplied missile. Rebel leaders publicly deny it, but one top rebel official has admitted that insurgents were involved in the operation.

The sprawling site of fields between two villages will now be officially designated a crime scene and divided into grids that will be systematically searched for remains, victims’ belongings and jet crash evidence. 

Both sides agreed a cease-fire around the crash zone, but the attack on Friday morning by rebels took place less than 12 miles south of the site.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defence Ministry plans to call up military reservists for two months of exercises, according to news agency Interfax. Moscow has previously used such exercises to raise troop numbers on its border with Ukraine.