Recovery effort around plane downed in Ukraine continues

2014-10-16 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) More than a dozen police have been injured and dozens of protesters detained in massive clashes between nationalists and security forces near Ukraine's parliament in Kiev where deputies voted down proposals to recognize a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group as national heroes. The clashes came after a Dutch-backed investigation continued the searching around the wreckage of a passenger plane which was downed in eastern Ukraine where fighting continues between government troops and pro-Russian rebels.

Listen to Stefan Bos’ report:

A Dutch-backed investigation has continued around the wreckage of a passenger plane which was downed in eastern Ukraine, but deadly clashes between government troops and pro-Russian rebels once again threatened the operation. 

Shelling in the region killed at least seven people over the last two days, while 17 people were injured when shells hit a funeral in the village of Sartana, near the disputed port city of Mariupol in Donetsk region, local officials said.

Additionally some 15 police have been injured and dozens of protesters detained in massive clashes between nationalists and security forces near Ukraine's parliament in Kiev where deputies voted down proposals to recognize a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group.

Despite the tensions, Ukrainian experts and four Dutch officials were briefly able this week to search part of an area near the wreckage of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in the Donetsk region, which is largely controlled by rebels, officials confirmed. 

The Dutch government said workers recovered belongings including passports, luggage, jewellery and even children's toys between the twisted, charred metal of what was once a massive Boeing 777 passenger plane.

MANY KILLED

All 298 people, most of them Dutch nationals, on board were killed when the flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur broke up on July 17. An initial report said it was hit from outside by multiple high energy objects, which some aviation experts claimed was consistent with a missile strike. 

Following weeks of behind-the-scene diplomacy, some 40 members of the Ukrainian disaster response agency participated in a new round of searching at the wreckage site in eastern Ukraine this week. 

The Netherlands Security and Justice Ministry said four Dutch officials and a team of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were also present, but searching wasn't easy. 

At one point an OSCE observer used his mobile phone to call the Ukrainian army, pleading to end shelling. 

“The shelling is some three kilometers from here. And if you come much closer we have to stop this operation,” he was overheard saying.

DUTCH EFFORTS 

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, who leads the Dutch recovery efforts, told says fighting has made it difficult to continue. 

He told Dutch public television that they work together "with the local state emergency service" but added "it remains unsafe territory." This week they were only able to search one day "in two of three villages" where plane wreckage was recovered and personal belongings found of victims.   

Further away in Kiev, legislators voted down a proposal to recognize a controversial World War II-era Ukrainian partisan group fighting for independence as national heroes because they collaborated with Nazis. Parliament also wanted to avoid more tensions with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. 

Yet it prompted clashes outside Parliament between nationalists supporting the partisan group and police. More than dozen police were injured and dozens of nationalists were detained. 

The violence overshadowed Parliament's agreement on policies to fight corruption in the former Soviet nation, ahead of upcoming general elections this month. 

Ministers also voted for a new defence minister to deal with deadly clashes between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine. Fighting continues in several areas, despite a ceasefire deal signed on September 5. 

(from Vatican Radio)