Deadly clashes between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists continued Sunday as investigators searched the site of a plane crash for a third day.
Reuters news agency reports nine people were killed around the cities of Lukansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine.
On Saturday, international investigators recovered the remains of more victims at the site of the Malaysia Airlines wreckage.
The team of 70 Dutch and Australian investigators worked scoured parts of the 20 square kilometer crash site, despite nearby fighting. Some of the investigators had to delay their search because of the clashes.
The investigators, along with officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe are focusing on recovering several dozen bodies still missing more than two weeks after the Malaysian plane was shot down, killing all 298 passengers and crew. Most of the victims were Dutch.
On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said he spoke by telephone with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, with Obama saying the United States remains deeply concerned about Moscow’s increased support for the separatists in Ukraine.
Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Obama said he discussed his preference for a diplomatic solution with the Russian leader. Obama, however, said there are limits to what the United States can do.
“Right now what we’ve done is impose sufficient costs on Russia that objectively speaking they should, President Putin should want to resolve this diplomatically,” he said. “Get these sanctions lifted. Get their economy growing again and have good relations with Ukraine; but sometimes people don’t always act rationally and they don’t always act based on their medium- or long-term interests. That can’t deter us though. We just have to stay at it.”
White House officials said the two leaders “agreed to keep open their channels of communication.”
Russian officials said Putin told the U.S. president that fresh sanctions imposed on Russia for its support for the separatists were “counterproductive” and would cause “serious damage to bilateral cooperation and international stability.”
Ukraine and Western governments blame rebels for the shootdown of the Boeing 777. U.S. analysts said the jetliner likely was downed by pro-Russian separatists launching a Russian missile, thinking the jetliner was a Ukrainian military aircraft.
Rebels intent on establishing autonomous republics near the Russian border have been battling Ukrainian troops for three months.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.
SOURCE: VOA News