Shelling in Ukraine hinders work at plane crash site

DONETSK Ukraine Sat Aug 2, 2014 2:36pm EDT

DONETSK Ukraine (Reuters) - Shelling near the wreckage of the Malaysian airliner downed in east Ukraine forced international experts to stop working on Saturday at one part of the crash site, the OSCE rights and security group said.

Alexander Hug, deputy head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring mission in Ukraine, said the experts worked without problem at the main part of the site.

But despite a local ceasefire agreed by government forces and pro-Russian separatists, shelling was heard about two km (1.2 miles) from a second area where wreckage came down.

"We also had a second detachment today, which tried to look at another debris location about seven kilometers away," Hug, whose organization had a group of monitors with the international experts, told reporters.

"We had to abandon that visit due to shelling nearby the location."

The United States says the separatists probably shot down the plane by mistake with a Russian-made missile. The rebels and Moscow deny the accusation and blame the downing on July 17 on Kiev's military campaign to quell the separatists' uprising.

Roads to the crash site from the nearest big city, Donetsk, were for several days too dangerous to use because of fighting, but the experts finally got there on Friday and hope now to recover the last of the 298 victims' remains.

Ukrainian officials said this week about 80 bodies had not yet been recovered from the wreckage of the Boeing 777.

The experts, who include Dutch and Australians, found more remains on Friday but security was deemed "unstable and unpredictable" at the site. The 298 killed on the plane included 196 Dutch, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.

(Reporting by Maria Tvetkova, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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