The group was the largest to reach the site since flight MH17 was
shot down over rebel-held territory on July 17, killing all 298
people on board.
Roads had for days been too dangerous to use because of heavy
fighting, frustrating efforts to recover all the victims' remains
and push ahead with an investigation.
In the latest clashes, the rebels killed at least 10 Ukrainian
paratroopers in an ambush after midnight near Shakhtarsk, one of the
closest towns to the wreckage site, the Ukrainian military said.
The rebels said they had pushed back government forces around
Shakhtarsk, where fighting has raged for several days. A Ukrainian
military official said a further 13 troops were wounded and 11
The recovery mission included 70 experts from Australia and the
Netherlands, whose countries suffered a big loss of life in the
shoot-down, as well as representatives of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
"Recovery work starts immediately," the OSCE said on Twitter.
An advance team drove to the site from the nearest big city,
Donetsk, on Thursday but only stayed only for about an hour after
the sides halted fighting along the route.
Agreement was later reached to extend the limited ceasefire around
the route, making it a safe corridor, at talks in Belarus involving
Russia, Ukraine, the rebels and the OSCE.
Kiev has accused the rebels of planting mines in the region near the
site, suggesting they want to hamper the investigation and hide
evidence, but an OSCE official said no evidence had been found to
back up the allegations.
Ukrainian officials say about 80 bodies have not been recovered from
the wreckage of the Boeing 777. The 298 victims included 193 Dutch
and 27 Australians, as well as 43 Malaysians.
The United States says the separatists probably shot down the plane
by mistake with a Russian-made missile but the rebels and Moscow
deny the accusation and blame the downing on Kiev's military
campaign to quell the uprising.
[to top of second column]
In other violence, city authorities said five civilians had been
killed and nine wounded in the past 24 hours in Luhansk, which,
with, Donetsk, is the last big rebel stronghold.
Government forces have intensified their offensive in mainly
Russian-speaking east Ukraine since the airliner came down.
The separatists have been pushed out of other towns they held in the
rebellion, mounted against rule by Kiev's pro-Western leaders and
inspired by Russia's annexation of Crimea after a pro-Moscow
president was ousted in Kiev in February.
Luhansk, the smaller of the two main rebel strongholds, is now
almost completely surrounded by government troops. It has been cut
of from food supplies and left with no electricity or running water,
Rebel commander Igor Girkin declared a state of siege in the
rebel-held territory in and around Donetsk, saying this allowed his
fighters to confiscate cars, construction materials, food, medical
equipment and phones.
More than 1,100 people had been killed and nearly 3,500 wounded
between mid-April and July 26, the United Nations said.
(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets in Kiev, additional
reporting by Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam, Writing by Gabriela
Baczynska, Editing by Timothy Heritage and Angus MacSwan)
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