26 Jul 2014

Australia boosts MH17 presence

10:36 pm on 26 July 2014

Australia has boosted the number of its officials dealing with the aftermath of the Malaysia Airlines disaster in eastern Ukraine.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott says a team of 230 federal police and defence personnel, including medical specialists, are either in Ukraine or on the way.

He says permission from Ukraine's parliament for armed Australian personnel to enter the site should be secured next week.

Mr Abbott said human remains are still at the site more than a week after the tragedy, highlighting the urgent need for an international force to secure the area, the ABC reports.

The Netherlands is also sending dozens of police officers and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, is vowing those responsible will be caught.

Flight MH17 was shot down in an area held by pro-Russia rebels on 17 July, killing all on board, including 193 Dutch people.

Thirty-eight Australian citizens and residents were among the 298 people on the Boeing 777.

Australia and the Netherlands visit Ukraine

Australia's Foreign Minister is in eastern Ukraine as Australia continues to push for greater security and access to the crash site.

Julie Bishop and her Dutch counterpart, Frans Timmermans, attended a ceremony in Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, marking the journey of victims' bodies to the Netherlands.

The Malaysian Airlines plane had taken off from Amsterdam and was en route to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in an area of eastern Ukraine after apparently being hit by a missile.

International investigators have joined observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in the area, the BBC reports.

On Thursday a "huge" piece of wreckage and more body parts were found at the site.

"We went into quite a heavily wooded area and we observed there a huge piece of fuselage and I think this is the part of the airplane that came down which to most ... would resemble an airline," OSCE spokesperson Michael Bociurkiw said.

"The windows were still intact. For the second day in a row, we did come across some human remains."

Multinational efforts to find the cause of the MH17 crash are under way, led by the Netherlands.

Meanwhile, the United States said it had evidence Russia had fired artillery across the border amid concerns about access to the site.

Russia also intended "to deliver heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the state department said.

Russia has frequently denied sending any rocket launchers into Ukraine.

Concern at crash site access

Fighting in eastern Ukraine is preventing free access to the crash site and OSCE US Ambassador Daniel Baer has called for enhanced security.

"Mr Baer does not speak for the OSCE but his comments reflect escalating international concern and frustration," the BBC's David Stern said.

"Mr Baer said the crash site needed to be delimited, cordoned off and secured but when BBC reporters visited the area on Thursday, they found the site fully unprotected. They also said there was no sign of international investigators."

Fighting in Ukraine's east continues, especially around the rebel stronghold Donetsk, the region's largest city.