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Updated: Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:12:37 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Malaysia Airlines MH17 suffered massive decompression after shrapnel hit



A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (© Grabovo)

A Malaysian air crash investigator inspects the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), Donetsk region July 22, 2014. Almost 300 people were killed when the Malaysian airliner went down last Thursday. REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS TRANSPORT DISASTER CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3ZO7T Maxim Zmeyev/Reuters

A Ukrainian security spokesman says data from the recovered flight data recorders shows Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crashed due to a massive, explosive loss of pressure after being punctured multiple times by shrapnel.

National security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said in Kyiv Monday the plane suffered "massive explosive decompression" after it was hit by fragments he said came from a missile.

The data recorders were sent to experts in Britain for examination.

Flight 17 went down on July 17 as it flew from Amsterdam toward Kuala Lumpur. All 298 people aboard died. The U.S. and Ukrainian governments say it was shot down by a missile fired from territory held by armed pro-Russian separatists, probably by mistake.

The separatists deny shooting down the plane; Russia says the Ukrainian military may have shot it down.

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- PHOTOS | Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site images

On the ground, a delegation of Australian and Dutch police and forensic experts failed to reach the crash site for a second day running as clashes rage in a town on the road to the area.

CBC correspondent Susan Ormiston said she can hear heavy bombardment near Shakhtarsk, a town around 30 kilometres from the fields where the aircraft was downed.  

"After about 30 minutes we spotted the convoy racing back, likely making the assessment that it was too dangerous to continue to the crash site," she said. 

AP reporters saw a highrise apartment block in the town being hit by at least two rounds of artillery.

The mandate of the police team is to secure the currently rebel-controlled area so that comprehensive investigations can begin and any remaining bodies be recovered.

Accusations of tampering

Ukraine has accused rebels of tampering with evidence and trying to cover up their alleged role in bringing the Malaysia Airlines plane down with an anti-aircraft missile.

Separatist officials have staunchly denied responsibility for shooting down the airliner and killing all 298 people on board.

In their campaign to wrest control over more territory from separatist forces, Ukraine's army has deployed a growing amount of heavy weaponry. Rebels have also been able to secure large quantities of powerful weapons, much of which the United States and Ukraine maintain is being supplied by Russia.

Moscow dismisses those charges.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a report out Monday that at least 1,129 people have been killed between mid-April, when fighting began, and July 26. The report said at least 3,442 people had been wounded and more than 100,000 people had left their homes. A UN report from mid-June put the death toll at 356.

At least eight civilians were killed by fighting and shelling in two cities held by separatist militants overnight Sunday, officials in the rebellion-wracked region said.

Authorities in Luhansk said that five people were killed and 15 injured by overnight artillery strikes. Three were killed in Donetsk as a result of clashes, the city's government said.

Rebels accuse government troops of deploying artillery against residential areas. Authorities deny that charge, but also complain of insurgents using apartment blocks as firing positions.

No rule of law

The UN said in its report that rebel groups continue to "abduct, detain, torture and execute people kept as hostages in order to intimidate" the population in the east. It said rule of law had collapsed in the rebel-held areas and that 812 people had been abducted in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions since mid-April.

It also reported heavy damage to electrical, water and sewage plants and estimated the costs of rebuilding at $750 million US — money the government would have to find by cutting social programs.

The U.S. State Department on Sunday released satellite images that it says back up its claims that rockets have been fired from Russia into eastern Ukraine and heavy artillery for separatists has also crossed the border.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the claims Monday during a televised press conference, asking "why it took 10 days" before the U.S. released the images.

A four-page document released by the U.S. State Department appears to show blast marks from where rockets were launched and craters where they landed. Officials said the images, sourced from the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, show heavy weapons fired between July 21 and July 26 — after the July 17 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

The images could not be independently verified by The Associated Press.

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