Explosions rang out near the crash site of downed flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine yesterday as international investigators arrived for the first time in nearly a week after Kiev announced a surprise one-day halt to its offensive against rebels.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's parliament yesterday voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, meaning he will remain at the helm of the strife-torn ex-Soviet state. Yatsenyuk dramatically announced his resignation last week in protest at the collapse of his ruling coalition, sparking fears of a political crisis.
A small team of Dutch and Australian experts accompanied by international monitors reached the vast site of the doomed Malaysia Airlines jet after days of fierce fighting between government forces and rebels had stopped them reaching the area.
Ukraine's military had earlier announced a "day of quiet" across the entire east after a plea from UN chief Ban Ki-moon to halt fighting in the area of the crash, where remains from some of the 298 victims lie festering in the sun some two weeks after the jet was shot down over rebel territory.
The West says the insurgents likely shot down the plane with a missile on July 17, but Russia and the rebels said it could have been blown out of sky by a Ukrainian jet.
Despite the brief lull, the death toll continued to climb, with Ukraine's army saying 11 soldiers were killed over the past 24 hours and local authorities saying that clashes in the rebel stronghold of Lugansk left three civilians dead in the same period.