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Three killed in Ukraine, MH17 probe team arrives

Posted on Jul 21 2014 | IANS

Kiev, July 21 : At least three people were killed as heavy fighting erupted in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk between insurgents and government troops on Monday even as an international team to investigate the crash of a Malaysian passenger plane arrived in the country's east.

Intensive gunfire and blasts were heard near the airport and railway station in the northwest of the insurgent-controlled city, where local residents were fleeing the battle zone.

At least three people were killed and another wounded in the latest fighting, Xinhua cited the Interfax news agency as quoting health authorities in Donetsk.

Civilians, including elders, women and children, were evacuated from the railway station and headed to downtown Donetsk.

A resident who called himself Vitaly said he heard explosions everyday in recent times, and that the Monday's explosions started earlier than usual.

"I have no job, no salary, no subsidies ... I live in panic everyday," he told Xinhua.

The clashes flared up as an international investigation team made up of experts from the Netherlands, the US and Germany arrived in Ukraine's east to probe the downing of a Malaysian passenger jet last week.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, while flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, crashed Thursday afternoon in the conflict-hit Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine killing all 283 passengers and 15 crew on board.

According to reports, the indications are that the Boeing 777 crashed after being hit by a missile. US President Barack Obama said that initial investigations showed that the missile was fired from an area in Ukraine controlled by anti-Kiev militants.

The Ukrainian government and insurgents in the restive eastern regions have traded barbs, accusing each other of being responsible for the incident and hindering the investigation.

Also Monday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordered an immediate ceasefire within a 40-km zone around the crash site.

"I have instructed the Ukrainian military personnel to stop their operations and halt fire in a radius of 40 km from the scene of the tragedy," Poroshenko told reporters during his visit to the Malaysian embassy in Kiev.

Describing the crash of the passenger plane as a "global tragedy" and a "threat to the whole world", the president urged the international community to act decisively in investigating the incident.

Poroshenko said that he has invited experts from the Netherlands, Malaysia, Germany, Britain, Australia, the US and Russia to take part in the investigation.

He believed that a joint investigation team of international experts would ensure the maximum transparency of the process.

According to Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, the 31-strong team of experts arrived at Kharkov in eastern Ukraine earlier Monday.

"We'll try to create a humanitarian corridor so they could get to the site of the tragedy," Yatsenyuk told reporters.

Moscow said Monday that the work of the international experts at the air crash site has been hampered by security issues.

"Investigation of the disaster by a monitoring mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and relevant Ukrainian services has been hampered by lack of consent between the domestic conflicting sides over safety guarantees for the foreign experts," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

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