170 Ukrainian experts are working gun pointed at the Malaysian plane crash site in the Donetsk region

Kyiv, 19 July 2014 – Search and rescue operation is ongoing at the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 in the Sharkhtarsk district of the Donetsk region, said Andriy Lysenko, Spokesman for the Ukrainian Security and Defense Council Information Center, during a briefing at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Mr. Lysenko emphasized that the search operation is complicated because of the presence of armed terrorists in the area. They continue to impede the work of the Ukrainian rescue personnel keeping them under the barrel of a gun.

The search operation covers an area of 25 sq. km. It includes the towns and villages of Moskovske, Rozsypne, Hrabove, Stryukove and the Hrabovske water reservoir. An area of about 18 sq. km has already been searched, and a team of divers has searched more than 2 sq. km of the water reservoir. As at 07:00AM on 19 July, 186 bodies have been found.

Head Office of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Kharkiv region has set up headquarters to facilitate the work of the State Commission for investigation of cause of the plane crash. The search operation involves 100 experts of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine and 18 items of equipment, together with 70 Interior Ministry experts.

According to Mr. Lysenko, international community has put the blame for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines plane on pro-Russian separatists. The spokesman reminded that an extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council was held on July 18 to discuss further escalation of the Ukrainian crisis after the Malaysian Airlines plane crash.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko has had a phone conversation with the Vice President of the United States Joseph Biden to discuss the results of the extraordinary meeting of the UN Security Council. The President of Ukraine expressed gratitude for the United States’ consistent support of Ukraine. The two officials agreed that further coordination of international effort is an important element in fight terrorism and overcome the new challenges facing Ukraine and the whole world today.

The Vice President of the United States also confirmed that the American counterpart has clear evidence that the missile was launched at the MH17 Flight from a territory fully controlled by Russia-backed militants.

Petro Poroshenko also had phone conversations with the German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Mr. Poroshenko assured his colleagues that Ukraine will follow all necessary procedures to investigate the situation and bury the victims.

At the same time, the conflict in the east of Ukraine does not seem to die down. Yesterday, Ukrainian Armed Forces gained control over the southeastern part of Lugansk. “During this important operation, Ukrainian troops demonstrated bravery, valor and heroism,” said the Speaker for the Security and Defense Council Information Center. Ukrainian Armed Forces managed to unblock the Lugansk airport. Anti-terrorist operation (ATO) forces also entered the territory of the Donetsk airport. Ukrainian troops are successfully carrying out offensive operations near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. The National Guard, supported by Ukrainian army’s artillery, has blocked a large transportation hub in the Donetsk region which is a critical site in the east of Ukraine. This success allowed them to considerably limit the supply of weapons and reinforcements to the terrorists.

Over the last 24 hours, illegal armed groups have made 17 attacks on Ukrainian checkpoints and other positions near Lugansk, Aremivsk, Rubizhne, Sukha Balka, Taraniv, Dibrivka, Oleksandro-Kalynova, Chervonopartyzanska and Oleksandrivska.

Situation remains tense at the Ukraine-Russia border. In the last 24 hours, terrorists’ artillery shelled the positions of the State Border Service and the ATO forces. On July 18, the Marynivka border checkpoint in the Donetsk regions was attacked three times using artillery and mortars. Also, yesterday at 19:30 and at nighttime, Russian mercenaries made two attacks on the Chervonopartyzansk border checkpoint in the Lugansk region. Ukrainian troops fired back forcing the militants to retreat.

Yesterday at 22:40, thanks to the vigilance of the Novoazovsk border guards of the Donetsk detachment, two unidentified watercrafts were detected 500 m away from the shoreline, heading towards the Ukrainian side from Russia. Considering the prohibition of any sea traffic during nighttime, in order to prevent an armed attack, the border guards fired warning shots. The watercrafts with border violators were forced to alter the course and return to the Russian Federation.

Five Ukrainian servicemen were killed and twenty injured in the last twenty-four hours.

Criminal situation is very tense in the cities temporarily controlled by terrorists, namely in Donetsk and Lugansk. Multiple cases of looting, car thefts, robberies and seizures of private buildings and premises have taken place. Armed pro-Russian bandits stop at nothing as they feel the inevitability of punishment. Some civilians have been reported to be killed and wounded, and there have also been cases of abduction for ransom.