Tag Archives: eastern Ukraine

BBC Newsnight Transcript: Borodai defends Ukraine rebels over #MH17


Alexander BorodaiPro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai denied neglecting bodies at the scene

Rebels in east Ukraine continue to deny that they brought down Flight MH17. Alexander Borodai, prime minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, spoke to BBC Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse at rebel headquarters in the city of Donetsk.

Our correspondent began by asking if the rebels had, as alleged, tampered with evidence at the crash site in an attempt, as US Barack Obama said, to hide the truth.

A: “That’s pretty impudent slander, to be honest. I don’t want to accuse Mr Obama of anything directly, because he’s probably not in full possession of the facts in question. He’s simply being fed by the Ukrainian propaganda machine.”

Q: “Nevertheless, for several days, international inspectors did not have access to the crash site.”

A: “That’s a lie. How did they not have access? Excuse me. We invited the international experts and waited for them to arrive. But Kiev was blocking them at every turn. Kiev quite obviously didn’t want anyone to come. Through all possible channels I personally, and all other members of our government, called on, insisted, practically yelled at the representatives of the international organisations. We were shouting: ‘Come as quickly as possible and bring your experts, damn it! Why are you not bringing them?’”

Q: “Maybe they were afraid?”

A: “Maybe they were afraid but that means that the Kiev side intimidated them because, for our part, we immediately announced that we’d provide all possible guarantees of safety. But obviously, when they start asking how those guarantees can be 100% – well, how can there be 100% guarantees of safety in a country at war? It’s absurd. You can see that yourself.”

Q: What do you say to the accusation that your forces just allowed the bodies to decompose in the summer heat?

A: “We wanted to collect the bodies from the very beginning but we were under extreme pressure from the OSCE [Organisation for Security Organisation in Europe] representative, who said to us: ‘I represent 57 countries. Don’t you dare touch the bodies of the dead. Under no circumstances. Or else all the 57 countries of the OSCE will do this and that to you. This is terrible. You need to wait for the experts.’ So we wait a day. We wait a second day. A third day. Come on! Not a single expert. We say: ‘Where are you, dear experts? Where are you? Where is the international community? Why is it not coming here?’ They’re just sitting in Kiev. Well to leave the bodies there any longer, in 30-degree heat is absurd. It’s simply inhuman. It’s a scene from a horror movie.”

OSCE monitors, journalists and rebel fighters stand near recovered MH17 bodies in east Ukraine on 19 JulyOSCE monitors, journalists and rebel fighters stand near recovered MH17 bodies in east Ukraine on 19 July

Q: How great is the Ukrainian military pressure on your forces now?

A: “We have indeed retreated from several towns. It was a forced retreat, but a tactical retreat, which allows us to pull back our front line and concentrate our forces. Yes, we admit it honestly, the size of our force does not compare to the mobilised forces of the Ukrainian army, whose ranks are swelled by huge numbers of mercenaries from many different countries.”

Q: “You’re also getting reinforcements from different countries: weapons and mercenaries.”

A: “No, we’re getting trophy weapons, I assure you. In large quantities. By trophy weapons, I mean those we take from the enemy. There were Ukrainian military bases here, army bases or interior ministry bases, and so when those bases surrendered, we acquired weapons, armoured vehicles etc.”

Q: “Buk missile launchers?”

A: “No we didn’t get a Buk. There were no Buks in this area.”

Q: “What about the photographs of that Buk, apparently in the town of Torez, in Snizhne?”

A: “I don’t know about those photographs. You’re talking about an information war here. You yourself can see that these photographs are the fruits of… I don’t want to say Photoshop, but maybe some kind of more advanced programme.”

Q: “So they’re fake?”

A: “Of course they’re fake.”

Q: “Can I ask you about Russia? Are you getting enough support from Russia?”

A: “We are getting support from the Russian people.”

Q: “What about the Russian state?”

A: “We are getting support from the whole Russian people. Volunteers are joining us. In fact, I am part of that help from the Russian people. Help for the Donbas [ie the Donets Basin] from the Russian people. Let me remind you, I myself am from Moscow. I am Russian. A citizen of Russia, and a resident of the city of Moscow. I am not from the Donbas, not at all. I came here as a volunteer. It just so happened that, instead of sitting in a trench with a rifle or a machine-gun, I’m now in the prime minister’s chair. Well… that’s fate.”

Q: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the FSB [Federal Security Service] or other Russian intelligence agencies?”

A: “No I am not now nor have I been.”

Q: “Never?”

A: “No.”

Q: “Have you had contacts with representative of such organisations?”

A: “Of course I have many acquaintances in the security services. I am a professional political scientist. I know many politicians, many businessmen, and of course people who work for the security services.”

Rebel commander Strelkov, flanked by guards, in Donetsk on 11 JulyRebel commander Strelkov, flanked by guards, in Donetsk on 11 July

Q: “How often are you in contact with them?”

A: “It varies. You know.”

Q: “When was the last time?”

A: “I have one very good acquaintance who is a member of the security services, albeit an ex-member. That is Colonel Strelkov – also a Muscovite by the way – who is the defence minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic. He’s a former security service agent and my good acquaintance. He was my good friend even when he was a serving member of the security services. We have known each other for 20 years at least. So what?”

Q: “So when people say you have links to the FSB, that’s true?”

A: “As anyone would have, who has dealings with the elite of society. Because the elite, in Russia as in any other society, includes representatives from business as well as representatives from different branches of the state.”

Q: “Through these contacts, the Russian state can influence your actions.”

A: “Purely theoretically, of course it can. Right. But it doesn’t.”

Q: “Why not?”

A: “Ask the Russian state.”


BBC News.

Ukraine’s Military accused of targeting civilians in east


In this photo taken on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Alexander Litvinenko speaks of the damage inflicted where a missile hit, two days before, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of his ninth-floor apartment, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death. Others in the residential neighborhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor’s office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country.In this photo taken on Wednesday, July 23, 2014, Alexander Litvinenko speaks of the damage inflicted where a missile hit, two days before, leaving a gaping hole in the wall of his ninth-floor apartment, in Donetsk, Ukraine. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death. Others in the residential neighborhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor’s office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) — War literally came to Alexander Litvinenko’s living room, when a missile punched a gaping hole into the wall of his ninth-floor apartment. The 53-year-old college philosophy teacher had just stepped into his study to check the news online, barely escaping death.

Others in the residential neighborhood in northwest Donetsk were less fortunate. Five civilians were killed and 12 injured in fighting between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian rebels on Monday, according to the mayor’s office. Residents in the rebel-held city are blaming Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who has promised to stamp out the uprising in the eastern part of the country.

“They’re bombing the civilian population instead of taking their fight to the battlefield,” said Natalya Kiselyova, a dental hygienist in the neighborhood.

Kiselyova, 38, said she heard the whistle of rockets that landed in the neighborhood, leaving a crater near a playground and slashing the bark off trees. “In western Ukraine they think we’re terrorists. We’re ordinary people who want to get up in the morning, go to work and sleep at night.”

While the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 last week riveted international attention on the Ukraine conflict, locals have been struggling for months with spiraling violence. The Ukrainian military, buoyed after the fall of rebel stronghold Slovyansk this month, is now trying to encircle Donetsk and cut off any supply routes from Russia.

Government forces have a delicate task ahead as they try to chase out rebels from densely populated areas. New York-based Human Rights Watch last week called on Poroshenko to investigate cases in which Ukrainian forces appear to have targeted civilians.

Meanwhile, Ukraine blames the rebels for attacks on civilians, saying “terrorists” are trying to discredit government forces.

“We have evidence that the terrorists are intentionally shelling residential areas,” said Security Council spokesman Andrei Lysenko.

“Ukrainian forces never use artillery or aviation against villages and towns,” he said.

Even with the threat of Ukrainian strikes, a semblance of normalcy has taken over much of Donetsk as government forces close in. Buses ply the streets; people walk their dogs in parks; and municipal workers weed flower beds in the manicured city center. At the same time, most businesses are closed and the city’s wide avenues are largely devoid of people and cars. About 40 percent of Donetsk’s 1 million inhabitants have left the city, rebel leader Alexander Borodai said this week.

Litvinenko, the man whose apartment was wrecked, voiced no desire for revenge.

“The solution I see is to stop the shooting. Then Europe and Russia should step in to help start talks,” he said. “Nothing will be resolved by force.”

via Ukraine accused of targeting civilians in east.

Planes with Malaysia Airlines flight #MH17 victims leaves Ukraine


Prince Laurent of Belgium, Dutch Labor Minister Lodewijk Asscher, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, and Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte attend a ceremony for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at Eindhoven Airport on July 23. © AFPPrince Laurent of Belgium, Dutch Labor Minister Lodewijk Asscher, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of The Netherlands, and Dutch Prime minister Mark Rutte attend a ceremony for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at Eindhoven Airport on July 23. © AFP

KHARKIV – Two military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster departed for the Netherlands on July 24, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash scene which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — most of them Dutch citizens — were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile, most likely by accident.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster.

To that end, Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was traveling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.

On Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first bodies remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives.

Ukraine’s government said 51 containers of bodies and body parts had been cleared for Thursday’s flights. At least 200 bodies were aboard the train that brought them from the crash site to Kharkiv earlier this week.

Dutch police spokesman Ed Kraszewski told The Associated Press that a team of 25 forensic experts and dozens of support staff began working to identify remains Wednesday evening at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum.

Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.Soldiers load coffins into cars under a Ukrainian flag during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones.

Staff will “examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days,” Kraszewski said in a telephone interview. “Then we have to see if there is a match.”

Meanwhile, police and traffic authorities appealed to the public not to stop on the highway as a convoy of hearses passes by Thursday on its way from Eindhoven Air Base to Hilversum.

On Wednesday, the convoy of hearses passed through roads lined with thousands of members of the public, who applauded, threw flowers or stood in silence as the cars drove by.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the number of Dutch victims had risen by one to 194, taking into account a woman with joint German and Dutch nationalities who earlier had been listed as German.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the crash, but offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The U.S. officials cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

Russia on Thursday brushed off the accusations. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said in a video statement that if the U.S. officials indeed had the proof the plane shot down by a missile launched from the rebel-held territory, “how come they have not been made public?”

Pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian government troops have been fighting for more than three months, leaving at least 400 dead and displacing tens of thousands.

Ukrainian forces are trying to ride the momentum of taking the strategic city Slovyansk on July 5 which was in rebel hands for more than two months. Government forces are now closing in on Donetsk, where insurgents regrouped after leaving Slovyansk, and are trying to cut off supply routes to rebels based in the neighboring Luhansk region.

Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, Lucian Kim in Donetsk, Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Rod McGurk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.


Associated Press.

Breaking News: #Rebel #leader admits rebels had #Buk missile system #MH17


‘Alexander Khodakovsky, of the Vostok Battalion, hinted strongly that the anti-aircraft weaponry came from an outside power’.

Rebel commander Alexander Khodakovsky of the Vostok Battalion speaks during an interview in Donetsk. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/ReutersRebel commander Alexander Khodakovsky of the Vostok Battalion speaks during an interview in Donetsk. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

In an interview with Alexander Khodakovsky, a Ukrainian rebel leader, Reuters has been told that separatists did possess the anti-aircraft system suspected to have shot down MH17.

Khodakovsky, commander of the Vostok Battalion, indicated that the Buk may have originated in Russia and could have been sent back to remove proof of its presence.

Khodakovsky blamed the Kiev authorities for provoking what may have been the missile strike that destroyed the doomed airliner, saying Kiev had deliberately launched air strikes in the area, knowing the missiles were in place.

“I knew that a Buk came from Luhansk. At the time I was told that a BUK from Luhansk was coming under the flag of the LNR,” he said, referring to the self-styled Luhansk People’s Republic.

Khodakovsky suggested the Buk system is back in Russia: “That Buk I know about. I heard about it. I think they sent it back. Because I found out about it at exactly the moment that I found out that this tragedy had taken place. They probably sent it back in order to remove proof of its presence.”

“The question is this: Ukraine received timely evidence that the volunteers have this technology, through the fault of Russia. It not only did nothing to protect security, but provoked the use of this type of weapon against a plane that was flying with peaceful civilians

“They knew that this Buk existed; that the Buk was heading for Snizhne,” he said, referring to a village 10km west of the crash site. “They knew that it would be deployed there, and provoked the use of this Buk by starting an air strike on a target they didn’t need, that their planes hadn’t touched for a week.”

“And that day, they were intensively flying, and exactly at the moment of the shooting, at the moment the civilian plane flew overhead, they launched air strikes. Even if there was a Buk, and even if the Buk was used, Ukraine did everything to ensure that a civilian aircraft was shot down.”

Yesterday locals in Torez told the Guardian they had seen such a system in rebel hands, but this is the first confirmation from rebels since MH17 crashed.

Rebel commander Alexander Khodakovsky of the Vostok Battalion speaks during an interview in Donetsk. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/ReutersRebel commander Alexander Khodakovsky of the Vostok Battalion speaks during an interview in Donetsk. Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

Khodakovsky said his unit had never possessed Buk, but they may have been used by rebels from other units.

“The fact is, this is a theatre of military activity occupied by our, let’s say, partners in the rebel movement, with which our cooperation is somewhat conditional,” he said.

“What resources our partners have, we cannot be entirely certain. Was there [a Buk]? Wasn’t there? If there was proof that there was, then there can be no question.”

Though Khodakovsky said rebels had procured Buks from Ukrainian forces in the past, he said none of the Buks captured from Ukrainian forces were operational.

Khodakovsky hinted strongly that the Buk system was provided by an outside power: “I’m not going to say Russia gave these things or didn’t give them … I want a Buk, and if someone offered me one, I wouldn’t turn it down.”

“I’m not going to say Russia gave these things or didn’t give them. Russia could have offered this Buk under some entirely local initiative. I want a Buk, and if someone offered me one, I wouldn’t turn it down. But I wouldn’t use it against something that did not threaten me. I would use it only under circumstances when there was an air attack on my positions, to protect people’s lives.”

“I am an interested party. I am a ‘terrorist’, a ‘separatist’, a volunteer … In any event, I am required to promote the side I represent, even if I might think otherwise, say otherwise or have an alternative view. This causes real discomfort to my soul.”

Khodakovsky is a Ukrainian and formerly the chief of the “Alpha” anti-terrorist unit in Donetsk.

Read the complete article on Reuters

The first of Malaysia Airlines, flight #MH17 victims’ arrive in Netherlands


People lay flowers in front of a plane prior a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)People lay flowers in front of a plane prior a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) — Two military transport planes carrying 40 coffins bearing victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 landed Wednesday in the southern city of Eindhoven, and pro-Russian rebels shot down two fighter jets in Ukraine’s restive east as fighting flared in the region.

Six days after the Boeing 777 was shot down over the battlefields of eastern Ukraine, the first bodies finally arrived in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest toll in the crash that killed all 298 passengers and crew.

A Dutch Hercules C-130 that Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking said was carrying 16 coffins touched down first, closely followed by an Australian C-17 Globemaster plane carrying 24 coffins.

British investigators began work on a pair of “black boxes” to retrieve data on the flight’s last minutes, while Dutch officials said they have taken charge of the stalled investigation of the airline disaster and pleaded for unhindered access to the wreckage.

The Dutch and Australian military transport planes departed Ukraine at midday, and landed at Eindhoven Air Base where the flights were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and other government officials. Hundreds of relatives were also there, Hekking said.

Ukrainian honor guards lift up a coffin, holding the body of one of the Malaysian Airlines plane passengers, to load it onto a Dutch cargo plane in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov)Ukrainian honor guards lift up a coffin, holding the body of one of the Malaysian Airlines plane passengers, to load it onto a Dutch cargo plane in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov)

“If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it,” said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash. “Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare.”

King Willem-Alexander clasped his wife’s hand as the couple grimly watched teams carry the coffins slowly from the planes to a fleet of waiting hearses. Almost the only sound was of boots marching across the ground and flags flapping in the wind.

From the airport, they were to be driven under military police escort to the central city of Hilversum where forensic experts were waiting at a military barracks to carry out the painstaking task of identifying the remains. Rutte says many bodies could be identified quickly and returned to their loved ones, but some families may have to wait weeks for a positive identification.

Interpol officers and international experts walk in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 during the ceremony of loading coffins containing remains of passengers of Malaysian Boeing 777 that was downed over eastern Ukraine. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)Interpol officers and international experts walk in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014 during the ceremony of loading coffins containing remains of passengers of Malaysian Boeing 777 that was downed over eastern Ukraine. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Olga Ivashchenko)

The bodies arrived back in the Netherlands — which is home to 193 of the victims — on a day of national mourning. Flags flew at half-staff on government buildings and family homes around this country of 17 million. Church bells rang out as the planes taxied to a standstill in Eindhoven.

Ukraine and Western nations are pressing the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site to allow an unfettered investigation, something Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would use his influence to achieve. Though confident that a missile brought down the passenger jet, U.S. officials say Russia’s role remains unclear.

Ukraine’s defense ministry said two fighter planes were shot down about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the site of the Malaysia Airlines wreckage. The separatist group Donetsk People’s Republic said in a statement on its website that one of the pilots was killed and another was being sought by rebel fighters.

While the insurgents deny having missiles capable of hitting a jetliner at cruising altitude, rebel leader Alexander Borodai has said that separatist fighters do have Strela-10M ground-to-air missiles which are capable of hitting targets up to an altitude of 3,500 meters (11,500 feet).

In fighting on the ground Wednesday, rebel leader Pavel Gubarev wrote on his Facebook page that his men retreated Wednesday from the villages of Chervona Zorya and Kozhevnya, on the Russian border about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the scene of the crash. Gubarev said 30 rebels had been injured.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch said Wednesday that Dutch authorities had delivered the plane’s voice and data recorders to the agency’s base at Farnborough, southern England, where information will be downloaded. Experts will also check for signs of tampering.

A youth group holds a banner as they march towards the Parliament house during a rally to seek justice for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. A team of Malaysian investigators visited the site along with members of the the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Ukraine for the first time since the air crash last week. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)A youth group holds a banner as they march towards the Parliament house during a rally to seek justice for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. A team of Malaysian investigators visited the site along with members of the the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) mission in Ukraine for the first time since the air crash last week. (AP Photo/Lai Seng Sin)

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading an international team of 24 investigators, said unhindered access to the crash site was critical.

Spokesman Tjibbe Joustra told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that around 25 investigators already are in Kiev analyzing information including photos, satellite images and radar information, but have not yet gained access to the crash site.

“We haven’t yet gotten guarantees about security for our way of working. If we go we have to be able to move freely,” he said. “We hope to be able to get to the site soon.”

Independent military analysts said Wednesday that the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible in an AP photograph of a piece of the wreckage all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk.

U.S. analysts have also concluded that an SA-11 was the likely weapon.

Konrad Muzyka, Europe and CIS armed forces analyst at IHS Jane’s, said the high number of shrapnel holes in the debris meant that only a fragmentary warhead like the SA-11 could have been used. “The Buk has a 70-kilogram (155-pound) warhead which explodes and sends shrapnel out,” he said. The fact the shrapnel holes are folded inwards confirmed that the explosion came from outside the plane, he added.

Dutch cargo plane crew members wait as Ukrainian honor guards load a coffin with the body of a Malaysian Airlines plane passenger in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov)Dutch cargo plane crew members wait as Ukrainian honor guards load a coffin with the body of a Malaysian Airlines plane passenger in Kharkiv airport, Ukraine, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. The Dutch government has declared Wednesday a day of national mourning as the country prepares for the arrival of the first bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (AP Photo/ Sergei Chuzavkov)

Justin Bronk, military sciences research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said “the size of shrapnel holes is fairly broad, in keeping with what you would expect from a large missile like the SA-11.”

The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions against more Russian individuals but refrained from targeting entire sectors of the Russian economy while waiting for clearer evidence of Moscow’s role in the disaster.

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for “creating the conditions” that led to the crash, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

The officials, who briefed reporters Tuesday under ground rules that their names not be used, said the plane was likely shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists. They cited intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists, some of which have been authenticated by U.S. experts.

The intelligence officials were cautious in their assessment, noting that while the Russians have been arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, the U.S. had no direct evidence that the missile used to shoot down the passenger jet came from Russia.

Indonesian Christine holds a portrait of her fiance Willem Grootscholten of the Netherlands who was a passenger of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, at her guesthouse in Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, June 23, 2014. The passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)Indonesian Christine holds a portrait of her fiance Willem Grootscholten of the Netherlands who was a passenger of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, at her guesthouse in Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday, June 23, 2014. The passenger plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine with the loss of 298 lives. (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawati)

Mike Corder in The Hague, Netherlands, and Jona Kallgren in Kharkiv, Ukraine, contributed to this report.


Associated Press.