Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Intensifies near MH17 Disaster Site

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fighting Intensifies near MH17 Disaster Site

Article excerpt

DONETSK, Ukraine * Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed this month.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

A four-page document released by the State Department seems to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Moscow has angrily denied allegations of Russia's involvement in eastern Ukraine. Russia's foreign ministry accused the U.S. over the weekend of conducting "an unrelenting campaign of slander against Russia, ever more relying on open lies."

Secretary of State John Kerry spoke by phone Sunday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, urging him to stop the flow of heavy weapons and rocket and artillery fire from Russia into Ukraine, said a State Department official. Kerry did not accept Lavrov's denial that heavy weapons from Russia were contributing to the conflict, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of the call.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow.

Reports of the intensifying unrest in eastern Ukraine prompted a postponement of a trip to the Malaysian plane crash site by a team of Dutch and Australian police officers who had planned to start searching for evidence and the remaining bodies.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government had rejected the idea of deploying armed troops to secure the crash site because there is no way they could achieve "military superiority" in a region where heavily armed pro-Russian rebels are battling Ukrainian government forces. …

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