Ukraine’s military announces one-day cease-fire to allow access to MH17 crash site
KIEV, Ukraine (CNN) — Ukraine’s military announced a one-day cease-fire on Thursday to allow international experts full access to the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed two weeks ago, officials said.
Fighting between the military and pro-Russia rebels in the area of the crash site has repeatedly prevented international monitors and investigators reaching the debris field where human remains and victims’ belongings still lie scattered.
World leaders, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have appealed to all parties in the conflict in eastern Ukraine to halt the fighting so that the international teams can do their job.
The statement issued Thursday by Ukraine’s Counter-Terrorist Operation’s press center said the military would not take offensive action but will “respond to direct attacks.”
The statement also accused the rebels of continued violence, including firing Grad rocket systems.
“The Russian militants do not adhere to the international agreements and demands. At 9 a.m. they used two Grad systems to shot in the village of Peremozhne. This demonstrates their attitude towards Ukraine and the international community.”
The United States and others say Russia has provided arms to rebels in eastern Ukraine, including heavy weapons such as a missile system like the one believed used to down the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago.
Russia and the rebel fighters deny involvement in the shootdown of MH17.
The Ukrainian parliament is holding an extraordinary, closed-door session Thursday during which it is discussing the MH17 crash.
The lawmakers are expected to vote on a motion to authorize Dutch, Australian and Malaysian investigators to operate around the crash site.
In the words of a Dutch diplomat, the parliamentary session would “formalize” an agreement that was already reached between the Ukrainian and Dutch governments last Monday.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte is due to meet Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday in the Netherlands, home to about two-thirds of the 298 crash victims.
Najib will sign the book of condolences for Dutch victims of the crash while in The Hague. Malaysia suffered the loss of 43 nationals in the crash, 15 of them crew members.