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April 14, 2021

MH17 land mine claims ‘despicable’: Bishop

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Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is aware of reports that Ukrainian rebels have been laying land mines on roads through to the crash site. (file pic)
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says she is aware of reports that Ukrainian rebels have been laying land mines on roads through to the crash site. (file pic)

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says claims investigators are being deterred from the MH17 crash site by land mines are ‘utterly despicable’.

Ms Bishop says she is aware of reports that Ukrainian rebels have been laying land mines on roads through to the crash site of the downed flight in eastern Ukraine.

The claims were reportedly by made a Ukrainian military spokesman.

‘I don’t know if those reports are confirmed,’ she told ABC radio on Thursday.

‘If that is true, it is utterly despicable.’

Australian and Dutch police investigators were forced to abandon the search for remains for a fourth consecutive day on Wednesday because of fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist fighters.

Ms Bishop said new information suggesting remains of up to 80 bodies were still on the site has made the joint team even more resolute and desperate to gain access.

‘It’s heartbreaking, it’s so distressing,’ she said.

‘We have the team in place, we have the experts ready to work, and we can’t get to the site.’

The foreign minister is concerned that Russia could be actively undermining the access process.

The Ukrainian government had been offering strong support for a humanitarian corridor and ceasefire.

‘We sent out a team in advance and they get halfway down the road … sometimes three quarters of the way … and then the shelling starts.

‘Whilst I can’t point the finger at who starts the shelling, we get absolute assurances from the Ukraine government that it’s not them.’

The joint team is also determined to retrieve a large pile of victims’ belongings from a morgue in the rebel-stronghold of Donetsk, where it’s believed some of the bodies had been at one point.

The belongings will be sent to the Netherlands, where body identification is taking place.

G7 leaders condemned Russia’s inaction on the UN security council resolution on access to the site, warning of further sanctions.

They called on Russia to use its influence over separatist groups and ensure effective border control.

‘Russia still has the opportunity to choose the path of de-escalation, which would lead to the removal of these sanctions,’ the leaders said in a joint statement on Thursday (AEST).

‘If it does not do so, however, we remain ready to further intensify the costs of its adverse actions.’

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