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MarketScreener Homepage  >  Equities  >  BURSA MALAYSIA  >  Malaysian Airline System Berhad    MASM   MYL3786OO000

MALAYSIAN AIRLINE SYSTEM BERHAD

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Malaysian Airline System Berhad : Investigators Reach Site of MH17 Crash

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07/31/2014 | 06:46am EDT

International investigators charged with the recovery of the remaining bodies of victims from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 were able to reach the site of the crash Thursday for the first time in nearly a week.

Representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, together with investigators from the Netherlands and Australia will now explore the site so that can start searching as soon as possible during the next visit, the Dutch government said in a statement.

Investigators have been hampered by intense fighting in eastern Ukraine and it is the first time they have managed to reach the site since Friday.

Ukraine's defense ministry had declared a one-day pause in fighting to let investigators finally get there, but accused the pro-Russian separatists of continuing to fire at government positions. It was unclear whether the cease fire had any bearing on the team's ability to reach the site.

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading the formal probe into the crash of the Boeing 777, said its team still hasn't been able to access the crash site as it is still not safe enough for investigators to do their on-site job properly, but had "made quite a few steps in the investigation based on other sources."

After last week successfully removing the remains of many of the 298 victims who died in the disaster, efforts to recover body parts that are believed to remain and to begin the on-the-ground investigation have been stalled by a surge in fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia separatists near the crash site.

Job van der Sande, a spokesman from the Dutch government, said the team that reached the crash site Thursday did so via a different route from the one they had previously tried. However, to actually start collecting remains still at the site, a larger team of investigators would need to get there.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte earlier Thursday indicated it was uncertain when such a larger team could access the site. "We must seriously take into account that this access [to the site] won't be possible for the next few days as well. But you can count on it that we will do our utmost to reach the crash site, so the experts can do their work," Mr. Rutte said.

Ukrainian officials say the rebels have been deliberately preventing the teams from getting to the wreckage. Rebel leaders and Russian officials have blamed the Ukrainian armed forces for stepping up their military operation in the region.

While officials on Wednesday warned the fighting may continue to block access for some time, the defense ministry said it had ordered its troops operating in the area to halt their offensive at the request of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The ministry said its forces were told only to shoot if fired upon, but that rebel fighters had continued to fight.

"These gunmen hired by Russia do not adhere to any international agreements," the ministry said in a statement. "They once again demonstrate their gangster attitude toward Ukraine and the whole world community."

Postings on social media sites associated with the rebel forces acknowledged that fighting had continued in several settlements near the crash site. They made no mention of a cessation in fighting and indicated government forces were continuing their offensive without interruption.

Meanwhile, Belarusian state media reported that a meeting of representatives from Kiev, Moscow and the OSCE was held in Minsk on Thursday to discuss securing access to the crash site and starting the process off freeing prisoners held by both the rebels and the Ukrainian government.

The gathering represented the first known face-to-face meeting of the various sides in more than a month. The last set of meetings led to a temporary cease-fire agreement that ultimately failed, with both sides accusing the other of continuing to fight.

The breakdown of the cease fire ultimately resulted in even heavier fighting, during which the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed, with evidence pointing to a surface-to-air missile.

The government and U.S. intelligence officials say the missile appears to have been fired from rebel-held territory and have accused Russia of supplying the sophisticated missile system believed to have brought the plane down. Russia denies any involvement, while the rebels insist they have never possessed weapons capable of hitting a plane flying as high as a commercial airliner.

Ukrainian forces have made swift advances near the downed plane and are working to split the rebels' territory in two, cutting the key separatist strongholds of Donetsk and Luhansk off from each other.

Overnight, both the government and the rebels said separatist forces were regrouping around Luhansk and the cities of Pervomaisk, Stakhanov and Alchevsk to avoid being surrounded. Col. Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the National Security and Defense Council, said 11 Ukrainian soldiers were killed and 31 wounded in the previous days fighting. He said Ukrainian forces had killed at least 50 rebel fighters.

Luhansk appeared increasingly isolated, and the defense ministry announced Thursday that it was opening a humanitarian corridor for six hours for residents to leave the city. In the city of Donetsk, officials reported fighting on the outskirts of town.

Local officials said most of the city had been cut off from water and electrical supplies due to heavy infrastructure damage caused by fighting.

Meanwhile, a meeting of representatives from Kiev, Moscow, the rebels and the OSCE that was scheduled to be held in the Belarusian capital of Minsk on Thursday has been pushed back a day, the Interfax news agency reported.

The gathering would represent the first known face-to-face meeting of Kiev and rebels in more than a month. The last set of meetings led to a temporary cease-fire agreement that ultimately failed, with both sides accusing the other of continuing to fight.

The breakdown of the cease fire ultimately resulted in even heavier fighting, during which the Malaysia Airlines plane was downed, with evidence pointing to a surface-to-air missile.

The government and U.S. intelligence officials say the missile appears to have been fired from rebel-held territory and have accused Russia of supplying the sophisticated missile system believed to have brought the plane down. Russia denies any involvement and the rebels insist they never had weapons capable of hitting a plane flying as high as a commercial airliner.

In Kiev, the Ukrainian parliament ruled Thursday to reject Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's resignation. He announced his intention to quit last week after Ukraine's ruling coalition in parliament broke up, setting the stage for early elections that could strengthen popular President Petro Poroshenko's hand.

Ukraine's parliament on Thursday approved a proposal to increase military spending in 2014 by further 9 billion hryvnia ($750 million) and set aside another 2 billion hryvnia for reconstruction of war-torn regions in the east. The money will mostly come from higher taxes on oil, gas, and other commodities extraction. Mr. Yatsenyuk said that the war in the east had "damaged the economy terribly," but said Ukraine would not stop fighting the insurgents.

Write to Lukas I. Alpert at lukas.alpert@wsj.com and Robin van Daalen at Robin.VanDaalen@wsj.com

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