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Ceasefire enables rescuers to recover fallen plane victims

A lull in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists allowed international experts yesterday to resume their search for human remains at the wreckage of a Malaysian airliner downed in eastern Ukraine last month.

Australian and Dutch OSCE investigators examine the wreckage of                                 Malaysian Airlines' Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove, 100km from Donetsk, in eastern UkrainePhotograph: Igor Kovalenko/EPA
Australian and Dutch OSCE investigators examine the wreckage of Malaysian Airlines' Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove, 100km from Donetsk, in eastern UkrainePhotograph: Igor Kovalenko/EPA

About 70 experts worked at the site for a second successive day following an agreement on a local ceasefire by the Ukrainian army and the pro-Russian rebels, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) said.

"Long day ahead. Intensive work focused on recovery (of) victims' remains," the security and rights body, which also has eight representatives at the site, said on Twitter.

Roads had for days been too dangerous to use because of heavy fighting, frustrating efforts to recover all the last of the 298 victims' remains and push ahead with an investigation into the cause of the disaster.

Ukrainian officials said last week about 80 bodies had not yet been recovered from the wreckage of the Boeing 777.

The experts, who include Dutch and Australians, recovered more remains on Friday but security was deemed "unstable and unpredictable" at the site. The 298 killed on the plane included 196 Dutch, 27 Australians and 43 Malaysians.

The United States says the separatists probably shot down the plane by mistake with a Russian-made missile. The rebels and Moscow deny the accusation and blame the downing on July 17 on Kiev's military campaign to quell the separatists' uprising.

The Ukrainian military said its forces had suffered no losses overnight in the conflict, although there was continued shooting, including tank and missile fire around the rebel-held city of Luhansk.

The latest developments came as Russia on Friday accused the European Union of double standards, saying it had lifted a ban on supplying Ukraine with military technology and equipment "on the quiet" but imposed sanctions on Moscow's defence sector.

Relations between Moscow and Brussels have deteriorated since the EU imposed sanctions on Russia over its involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian separatists are fighting government forces.

"During a recent meeting of the Council of Europe in Brussels, leaders of EU member states agreed 'on the quiet' to remove restrictions on exports to Kiev of equipment that could be used for internal repression," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website.

"Exports of military technologies and equipment were also allowed," the statement said, without saying exactly when the decision was taken by the EU.

The Foreign Ministry, which has suggested the EU is dictated to by the United States, also called on EU leaders not to be "goaded" by Washington over events in eastern Ukraine.

The EU passed its heaviest penalties on Moscow last week, imposing sanctions on Russia's defence, energy and financial sectors.

It agreed in February to review export licences for deliveries of military technology and equipment to Kiev and to suspend export licences for riot-control equipment that could be used by ousted president Viktor Yanukovich's government for "internal repression."

In July, the EU revoked that agreement. Its members did not impose an outright ban on military equipment exports to Ukraine but instead agreed to review such exports.

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