Conflict in ukraine: new accusations from washington

According to the U.S., Russia allegedly shelled Ukrainian positions from its own territory. Meanwhile, more bodies were found at the site of the crash of Flight MH17.

Debris from the crashed Malaysia Airlines plane was still burning for days (photo taken July 23). Photo: ap

After the suspected downing of the plane over eastern Ukraine, the U.S. is making new accusations against Moscow: from its own territory, Russia shelled Ukrainian army positions with artillery, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday. She cited intelligence, but did not go into detail. In addition, Harf in Washington added, there is new evidence that Moscow is planning to supply the rebels in eastern Ukraine with more powerful rocket launchers than before.

At the same time, Ukraine has come under criticism from the Human Rights Watch organization. The organization has accused the leadership in Kiev of killing 16 civilians in a rebel-held area. Between July , government forces and pro-government militias used Russian-made "Grad" missiles in the Donetsk area at least four times, it said in a statement released Thursday.

Firing such pinpoint missiles in densely populated areas violates the law of war and could be classified as a war crime, it said. Human Rights Watch called on all parties in the conflict to refrain from using "Grad" missiles in the future.

Deputy Prime Minister Groisman Takes Office

On top of the latest allegations, the ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine and massive problems in clearing up the suspected plane shootdown, there was also a serious government crisis in Kiev: Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk announced his resignation because his governing coalition had broken up. The signs now point to new elections.

The nationalist Svoboda party and the Udar movement led by former boxing world champion Vitali Klitschko had withdrawn their deputies. In response, Yatsenyuk told parliament Thursday, "In connection with the collapse of the coalition, I announce my resignation." He said the parliament could no longer work under the new conditions and pass the necessary laws.

Head of government Yatsenyuk pointed to the desperate situation of his country. Several economic bills had previously failed in the Rada – including one that would have allowed foreign investors to participate in Ukraine’s ailing gas transmission system. This was intended to reduce the transit country’s dependence on Russia. Former Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman is to lead the government on a transitional basis.

UN force to secure crash site

In eastern Ukraine, investigators are still unable to gain unimpeded access to the crash site a week after the Malaysian passenger plane was presumed shot down. That is why a UN force is now to secure the area, according to a proposal by the Netherlands and Australia. 50 Australian police officers were sent to London on Thursday in anticipation of such a mission.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he sought Russian President Vladimir Putin’s support for the plan in a phone call. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop flew to Kiev with her Dutch counterpart, Frans Timmermans, to also persuade the Ukrainian government to allow an international police force to secure the crash site, Abbott said.

So far, only pro-Russian rebels control the crash site. The Boeing 777 was hit by a surface-to-air missile, according to U.S. officials. According to the OSCE, Malaysian investigators at the crash site also assume that a missile hit the plane. Heavily punctured wreckage points to that, Michael Bociurkiw of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission told ZDF television on Thursday. All 298 people on board were killed.

The Netherlands flew out more remains of the occupants killed in the crash. Most of the victims of the crash were Dutch. But Australians, Britons, Germans and other nationals were also on the plane. The first remains of victims were flown out on Wednesday, followed by two more flights from Kharkov to Eindhoven on Thursday. Australian media reported Friday that a new large piece of wreckage and more bodies had been found in the debris field.

In response to the Flight MH17 tragedy, leaders of the international aviation industry plan to convene for a strategy meeting. The meeting, scheduled for next Tuesday in Montreal, Canada, will focus on safety issues raised by the disaster, said a representative of the International Civil Aviation Organization (IACO), which is organizing the meeting. In addition to the U.N. agency, delegates from the International Air Transport Association, which is responsible for airlines, the air navigation service provider CANSO and the international umbrella organization of airport operators ACI will participate.

There will be another top-level meeting of officials next February, according to Thursday’s information.

EU expands sanctions

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) expanded its list of entry bans and account suspensions against representatives of Russia and the separatists. The new punitive measures bring the number of affected individuals in Russia and eastern Ukraine to 87, diplomats said. For the first time, 18 organizations and companies have also been blacklisted. They are no longer allowed to do business in the EU.

Other tightening of EU sanctions will be decided later. The main points at issue are more difficult access for Russia to financial markets, a halt to the supply of high-tech goods for oil production and a ban on arms deliveries to Moscow.