Ukraine crisis: Malysian and Dutch PMs discuss MH17 access

Jonathan Beale reports from north of Donetsk, where pro-Russian separatists have abandoned their posts in a hurry

The Malaysian and Dutch leaders will meet in the Hague later to discuss how to secure access to MH17's crash site.

International monitors were turned back by separatists again on Wednesday amid clashes in the area in eastern Ukraine.

Flight MH17 crashed two weeks ago, killing all 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch passengers.

Later on Thursday, the EU is due to reveal new sanctions on Russia, which is accused of arming the rebels who the West says shot the plane down.

Russia has come under increased pressure to end its support for the rebels despite having continually denied claims that it is arming and training them.

Debris from flight MH17 lays untouched in a field in eastern Ukraine - 25 July 2014 International monitors and investigators have been unable to reach the MH17 crash site due to fighting
Armed rebels stop international monitors from proceeding to the crash site of MH17 in eastern Ukraine - 30 July 2014 Armed separatists stopped a team of OSCE observers on their way to the crash site on Wednesday
Ukrainian soldiers advancing through the countryside in Donetsk region - 30 July 2014 Ukraine's army is pushing to retake towns in the area, but says it is not seeking to secure the site itself

Ukraine's army has intensified its offensive against the rebels in recent days, and retook several towns in the Donetsk region on Wednesday.

Heavy fighting around the site where the Malaysia Airlines flight went down has left international observers and investigators unable to examine the wreckage.

New crisis talks

Belarus will host talks between Ukraine, Russia and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe on Thursday on the crisis in Ukraine.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko is sending a representative to the talks, which are expected to include discussions on MH17. A senior separatist leader is also due to attend.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had suggested sending armed soldiers to secure the site, but later said the move would be seen as a "provocation" by rebels.

He will discuss other options with his Malaysian counterpart Najib Razak when they meet at 1015 BST (0915 GMT) on Thursday.

Prime Minister Razak is visiting the Netherlands to get an update on the process of identifying MH17's victims.

Trade between the Netherlands and Russia is dropping as Anna Holligan reports.

Forensic experts are currently working to identify about 200 victims whose remains were flown to the Netherlands last week, but the remains of dozens of others are still at the crash site in eastern Ukraine.

Dutch aviation experts leading the inquiry into the crash have refused to comment on their investigation but Ukrainian officials involved in the process say shrapnel from a missile was to blame.

However, it remains unclear who fired a missile, with pro-Russia rebels and Ukraine blaming each other.

Vladimir Chizhov, Russia's ambassador to EU: "The Russian economy has been through challenges like this and it will survive"

On Wednesday, Russia hit out at new sanctions from the US and EU, calling them "destructive and short-sighted".

But G7 leaders said Russia would face further economic sanctions if it continued to undermine "Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence."

The EU is due to release details of its expanded sanctions on Thursday, targeting Russia oil, defence and technology sectors.

It has also added eight individuals, including several members of Mr Putin's inner circle, to a list of people hit with EU-wide asset freezes and travel bans.

That list now includes a total of 95 people and 23 entities and features the heads of Russia's intelligence agencies, the president of Chechnya, and two Crimean energy firms.

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