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Fighting Intensifies Near MH17 Crash Site in Ukraine

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DONETSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian armed forces mounted a major onslaught against pro-Russian separatist fighters Sunday in an attempt to gain control over the area where a Malaysia Airlines plane was downed earlier this month. Reports of the intensifying unrest in eastern Ukraine prompted a postponement of a trip to the site by a team of Dutch and Australian police officers who had planned to start searching for evidence and the remaining bodies.

In the Netherlands, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said his government has rejected the idea of deploying armed troops to secure the crash site because there is no way they could achieve "military superiority" in a region where heavily armed pro-Russian rebels are battling Ukrainian government forces.

Ukraine's National Security Council said Sunday that government troops have encircled Horlivka, a key rebel stronghold, and that there had been fighting in other cities in the east. Horlivka lies around 20 miles north of the main rebel-held city of Donetsk.

A representative of the separatist military command in Donetsk confirmed that there had been fighting in Horlivka, but said that rebel fighters were holding their positions.

The U.S. State Department, meanwhile, 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.

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— The Associated Press

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