International police given access to crash site
Malaysia’s Prime Minister said on Sunday that an agreement had been reached with separatists in Ukraine to give international police access to the site where a Malaysian plane was downed and enable investigators to determine why the aircraft crashed.
A statement issued by Najib Razak’s office said the agreement with separatist leader Aleksander Borodai would ‘‘provide protection for international crash investigators’’ to recover human remains and ascertain the cause of the crash.
‘‘I hope that this agreement with Mr Borodai will ensure security on the ground so the international investigators can conduct their work,’’ Najib said in the statement.
Dutch police are traveling to the scene of the Malaysian plane disaster in eastern Ukraine to secure the site, which investigators complain has already been compromised.
Until now rebels around the crash site have limited foreign access to the site to small numbers of investigators and observers.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said ‘‘full and frank talks’’ in the rebel-held city of Donetsk on Saturday had led to the universal view there should be a ceasefire at the crash site while the mission conducted its work.
Fighting between government forces and separatists is raging just 60km away, with loud explosions heard at regular intervals in the western and northern suburbs of Donetsk.
Australia Federal Police officers are being deployed to the MH17 crash site as part of the Dutch-led humanitarian mission.
The officers will be unarmed even though Abbott admits it will be a risky mission.
‘‘Our objective is to get in, get cracking and to get out,’’ he told reporters in Canberra on Sunday.
The police-led mission will search for unrecovered bodies and remains and conduct a forensic examination of the crash site.
So far there are 170 AFP officers in Ukraine with more on the way.
While not referring directly to the separatists, Abbott said ‘‘local people’’ had guaranteed the mission’s security.
However, he admitted those taking part in the mission would not be ‘‘perfectly safe’’.
‘‘Frankly, we need to be prepared to take some risks in order to do the right thing by our dead and by their grieving families.’’
Abbott noted there had been a ‘‘fair bit of goodwill’’ from locals in the area, especially since a UN Security Council resolution called for an independent investigation.
FIRST MH17 VICTIM IDENTIFIED
The first of the 298 people killed in the MH17 disaster has been identified by forensic experts, Dutch officials said on Saturday.
"It's a Dutch citizen and the victim's family and mayor of where they lived have been informed," the Dutch Ministry of Justice said in a written statement.
The identity of the victim has not been publicly released.
Two-thirds of the people killed in the July 17 missile attack were citizens of the Netherlands and the Dutch government is in charge of identifying the victims.
"The team of 200 specialists is busy with the identification process, but warns that it can take months for all the victims to be identified," the statement said.
DNA samples taken from family members are being used to identify the remains of the passengers and crew.
Where possible, those samples and DNA samples from the remains will likely be checked against ante-mortem data, like samples of hair taken from sources like a victim's hair or toothbrush.
Dental records may also be used, where necessary and where possible. Such techniques will spare relatives being called in to visually identify their loved ones.
The remains that have been repatriated to the Netherlands so far had been labelled and numbered before being transported from Donetsk to the designated operations centre in Kharkiv where Interpol's incident response team and international disaster victim identification teams from seven countries carried out preliminary examinations.
They were then flown to Eindhoven before being taken to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks at Hilversum, south of Amsterdam, where the international team of forensic experts will carry out the enormous task of identifying 298 victims.
Their task has been made all that much harder because of the amount of time it took to recover the bodies, the effect of the temperatures of the Ukrainian summer and the contamination of the site by separatist rebels.
Between Wednesday and Saturday last week 227 coffins carrying the bodies of those killed were flown back to the Netherlands for identification.
Not all of the remains have been recovered from the Ukrainian crash site, which is spread over kilometres and still controlled by rebel separatists.