* Ukrainian troops advance towards crash site
* Fighting prevents monitors from visiting
* US and Europe prepare more sanctions
* Russia dismisses US charges it will supply more missiles
By Aleksandar Vasovic
DONETSK, Ukraine, July 27 A Ukrainian push to
dislodge pro-Russian rebels from the site of the downed
Malaysian airliner further complicated plans for an
investigation on Sunday as Europe and the United States prepared
economic sanctions on Russia over the conflict.
Russia dismissed U.S. allegations it was about to hand over
more missiles to the separatists, who Western leaders say almost
certainly shot the airliner down by mistake with a
Russian-supplied surface-to-air missile.
The separatists deny any involvement and Moscow says it has
not supplied them, suggesting Ukrainian forces were to blame.
Washington said on Friday another transfer from Russia to
Ukrainian separatists, this time of heavy-caliber
multiple-launch rocket systems, appeared to be imminent and that
Russian forces were slowly building up along the Ukrainian
The allegations coincided with preparations in Western
capitals for tougher sanctions against Russia.
Members of the European Union, wary of the impact of broad
penalties on their own economies, were expected to try to reach
a final deal on Tuesday on measures including closing the bloc's
capital markets to Russian state banks, an embargo on arms sales
and restrictions on dual-use and energy technologies.
The EU added new names on Friday to its list of individuals
and companies facing travel bans and asset freezes over their
alleged involvement in Ukraine and could agree to extend the
list further as early as Monday.
Washington, which has taken the lead in imposing individual
and corporate penalties on Russia, said on Friday it was likely
to follow up on any new EU move with more sanctions of its own.
A Russian defence ministry spokesman, cited by Russian news
agencies, did not address the latest U.S. allegations directly,
but said that over the past four months 18 international
inspections had not found any evidence of Russian military
violations on the border with Ukraine.
Fighting around the site of the downed Malaysia Airlines
flight MH17 prevented a visit by international experts on
Sunday, although Malaysia said separatists had agreed to allow
in international police and investigators.
The Ukrainian government said its forces were advancing
towards the crash site to try to free it from the rebels, who
have impeded the work of international monitors and whom Kiev
accuses of tampering with evidence pointing to who shot it down.
"All our troops are aiming to get there and liberate this
territory so that we can guarantee that international experts
can carry out a 100-percent investigation of the site and get
all proof needed to deduce the real reason for this tragedy,"
said Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's Security Council.
International monitors said the fighting itself could affect
the crash site, underlining the growing complexity of trying to
establish who shot down the plane.
In Donetsk, Alexander Hug, deputy head for the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe's monitoring mission in
Ukraine, said monitors would not visit the site on Sunday.
"The situation on the ground appears to be unsafe ... we
therefore decided to deploy tomorrow morning," Hug, flanked by
Dutch and Australian experts, told reporters.
"Fighting in the area will most likely affect (the) crash
site," Hug said.
The separatists are still in control of the area where the
plane was shot down earlier this month but fighting in the wider
eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk has been heavy as
Ukrainian government forces try to dislodge them. It was raging
in at least five different places on Sunday.
Lysenko said government troops were advancing east from the
town of Makievka towards another town of Shakhtarsk, nearby the
crash site. Shakhtarsk residents said air strikes hit the city.
"Our military is advancing, fighting goes on every day,
every night, they have already liberated two-thirds of the
territory," Lysenko told a news conference in Kiev.
Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said an
agreement reached with separatist leader Aleksander Borodai
would "provide protection for international crash investigators"
to recover human remains and ascertain the cause of the crash.
The OSCE has provided a team to monitor the site in advance
of an investigation, but Najib said a full team of investigators
was needed to ensure any human remains left there were removed.
"We also need a full deployment of investigators to have
unfettered access to the crash site so we can understand
precisely what happened to MH17. I hope that this agreement with
Mr Borodai will ensure security on the ground, so the
international investigators can conduct their work," he said.
"Three grieving nations", Malaysia, Australia and the
Netherlands, had formed a police group to secure the site, he
said in a statement issued by his office.
Among the 298 people who died aboard the Boeing 777 on its
flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17 were 193 Dutch
nationals, 43 Malaysians and 28 Australians.
TIME TO PROCEED
Najib said on Saturday the separatists had fulfilled two of
three conditions of a earlier deal struck - the return of
victims' bodies and of the plane's two "black boxes" - and it
was now time to proceed with the investigation.
Malaysian experts have said they believe at least 30
investigators will be required to cover the full site of the
crash, in addition to Dutch investigators and an expert from the
United Nations' civil aviation body, the ICAO.
In the Australian capital Canberra, Prime Minister Tony
Abbott said an unarmed police mission led by the Netherlands and
made up of about 49 officers would travel to the site. Officials
said a total of 170 Australian police were deployed in Ukraine.
"Our objective is to get in, to get cracking and to get
out," Abbott, who has played a leading role in pressing for an
investigation, told reporters in Canberra.
"This is a risky mission, no doubt about that, but all the
professional advice I have is that the safest way to conduct it
is unarmed, as part of a police-led, humanitarian mission."
Abbott said the force, including 11 Australians, would stay
"as long as we can to do a thorough job" but he expected it
would be no longer than three weeks.
(Additional reporting by Natalia Zinets, Lina Kushch, Gabriela
Baczynska and Elizabeth Piper in Kiev, Yantoultra Ngui in Kuala
Lumpur and Morag Mackinnon in Perth; writing by Philippa
Fletcher; editing by Anna Willard)