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Ukraine parliament agrees to armed Dutch, Australian personnel at MH17 site

Ukraine's parliament on Thursday (31 July) ratified deals with the Netherlands and Australia allowing them to send around 950 "armed personnel" to secure the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in war-torn east Ukraine.

KIEV: Ukraine's parliament on Thursday (31 July) ratified deals with the Netherlands and Australia allowing them to send around 950 "armed personnel" to secure the crash site of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 in war-torn east Ukraine.

The agreements allow the two countries to dispatch "military and non-military" personnel to the scene, although Dutch officials have previously said it would be "not realistic" to send troops in to bolster a team of police experts already on the ground amid fears a deployment risked being dragged into the conflict in east Ukraine.

The plane was shot down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew. The Netherlands and Australia together lost around 221 citizens in the crash. Some bodies have yet to be recovered at the crash site, which has been inaccessible to investigators for days due to fighting between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russia separatists.

Kiev on Thursday announced a day-long halt to its deadly offensive to oust rebels in east Ukraine in an effort to allow the investigators to access the site. Following the announcement, a small team of Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by international monitors reached the vast site of the doomed jet.

But in a sign of the continuing insecurity, an AFP team following some minutes behind the convoy heard loud blasts just a few kilometres away from the site and saw black smoke rising from a village close to where some of the plane wreckage is lying.

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