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The National Security and Defense Council said “the Ukrainian army has come close to the crash site but there is no fighting in the area”.
It said a group of international experts and officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had been given access to the scene by the local militia.
The authorities in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said that by stepping up fighting in the area around the crash site Kiev was trying to avoid exposure.
DPR Prime Minister Alexander Borodai said that active fighting in this area “undeniably indicates that Kiev is trying to destroy the evidence of the crime committed by its military”.
Kiev’s actions are “contrary to Poroshenko’s decision to declare a ceasefire in the 40-km area around the scene of the accident”, he said.
The Ukrainian government said earlier that the central authorities would not use force to get access to the crash site in the Donetsk region. “Theoretically, we can do it, but if this happens, all evidence will be destroyed,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said.
Thirty Dutch forensic experts who are supposed to look for the bodies of the Malaysian plane passengers have so far not been able to reach the crash site as the situation remains unstable due to the continuing fighting , the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice said.
The Ukrainian army undertook a major offensive east of the town of Shakhtersk in the Donetsk region in an attempt to cut off the local militias, but the latter repelled the attack and said the Ukrainian troops “sustained enormous losses”.
DPR officials said “remains of three brigades” are still in the Donetsk region but “the position of the surrounded troops is deteriorating as some soldiers are running away, heading to Russia”.
Explosions and shooting are heard in Donetsk since morning. Fighting continued throughout the city all night. As a result, eight civilians were wounded and three of them later died from injuries, the City Council press service said.
In Luhansk, five civilians were killed and 12 wounded over the past 24 hours. Electricity has been cut off to more than 30,000 people due to the damage to city’s power system, and over 8,000 people have been left without water and 4,000 without gas supply.
This forced nine mines to stop operation and evacuate 3,000 workers.
The Ukrainian army offensive has been stopped north of Luhansk, officials of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) said.
The situation north of Luhansk “has stabilized after the offensive broke down there. Attempts to fight its way to the airport… failed and the enemy is regrouping its forces”, the Novorossiya news agency quoted LNR officials as saying.
It reported constant shelling and subversive activities by the Ukrainian troops but said that air strikes have become less frequent.
DPR Defense Minister Igor Strelkov ordered militias and their commanders “not to open fire at single Ukrainian army members or their groups if they have raised a white flag or otherwise signifoed their intention to surrender”.
After disarming, these individuals will be given the status of prisoners of war. They will be provided with meals and medical attention, if need be. They cannot be executed, treated humiliatingly or tortured, Strelkov said.
In the future, members of the Ukrainian army who have surrendered and who have not committed grave crimes during armed hostilities in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions will be allowed either to return to their families or join the DPR militias or will be sent to Russia as refugees.