Unarmed Aussie police to help secure Ukraine site

A woman takes a photograph of wreckage at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 26, 2014. (REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin)

CANBERRA: Australian police will be sent to the Malaysian airliner's crash site in rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine as part of a Dutch-led police force to secure the area and help recover victims' remains, Australia's prime minister said Sunday.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that by using unarmed police, Ukraine's Parliament will not need to ratify the deployment as it would if the security force were to be armed.

"Today I announce that the Australian Federal Police will be deployed to the site as part of an unarmed, Dutch-led international humanitarian mission," Abbott told reporters.

"This is a risky mission. There's no doubt about that. But all the professional advice that I have is that the safest way to conduct it is unarmed, as part of a police-led humanitarian mission," he said.

Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus said 11 Australian police would initially be sent Monday into the debris field, which covers 50 square kilometers.

Negus said the Dutch police also would be unarmed. He did not say how many Dutch police would be sent.

The pro-Russia separatists have been blamed for shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a surface-to-air missile on July 17, killing all 298 people aboard.

Negus said assessments would soon be made on how many police are needed to secure the crash site. There currently are 170 Australian Federal Police personnel in Ukraine waiting to be deployed, he said.

The first priority of the international police force is to enable searchers to recover human remains, Abbott said. But searchers will also conduct a forensic examination of the area in the hope that those responsible for shooting down the Boeing 777 can be brought to justice.

Abbott said he expected police would only spend two or three weeks at the crash site.

"This is a volatile situation," he said. "This is contested ground and we don't want to be there any longer than is absolutely necessary."





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