An international team of investigators has reached the site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine. This is the first time in almost a week that experts have been able to reach the site due to fighting.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said on Thursday that a team of Dutch and Australian experts reached the crash site in eastern Ukraine for the first time in almost a week.
Announcing the news on Twitter, the OSCE said the monitors used a new route to access the site which had been blocked due to fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels.
The OSCE team is expected to initially focus their efforts on retrieving bodies still on the site and collect victims' belongings.
The government in Kyiv had earlier said on Facebook that it would suspend offensive operations in its military campaign to allow the international teams reach the site.
"On July 31, troops involved in the active ATO [anti-terrorist operation] phase are not conducting military operations apart from protecting their own positions from attack," it said adding that it was heeding calls by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Rebels, however, have said government forces continue to attack the area.
Appeals for ceasefire
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak appealed for an "immediate ceasefire" on Thursday after talks with his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte in the The Hague.
"I ask (for) the immediate cessation of the hostilities in and around the crash site by both Ukraine and separatist forces," he said.
Rutte described the pain caused by the accident, in which 298 people died, most of them Dutch, Australian and Malaysian, as "almost impossible to bear."
He said the Netherlands and Malaysia shared three priorities - to bring home the victims' remains and belongings, to determine the cause of the disaster and to ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.
PM resignation rejected
Meeting in a special session, the Ukrainian parliament rejected Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's resignation which he tendered last week after lawmakers failed to support his proposed budget amendments he said were essential to fund the country's offensive against pro-Russian separatists.
On Thursday, his amendments were approved in a new vote and his resignation was blocked.
Yatsenyuk had argued that Kyiv would have defaulted if the amendments had not been passed, undermining a $17 billion bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
hc/pfd (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)