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Putin Refuses to Order Rebels Away from MH17 Crash Site

MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/AFP/Getty Images(MOSCOW) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin issued a statement Monday that fell short of calling for separatist rebels from eastern Ukraine to turn over control of the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 to international teams.

Instead, the Russian leader only says that the safety and security of monitors trying to reach the scene must be guaranteed.

Putin also used his statement to assign partial blame to the central government in Kiev for creating what he charges are the conditions that have led to the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

No one yet has taken responsibility for shooting down the plane with 298 people on board, nearly 200 of them from the Netherlands on their way to Malaysia. However, all signs point to the rebels, especially after Ukrainian intelligence claims to have intercepted a call between the separatists and the Russian military that discussed the shoot-down of Flight 17.

Meanwhile, Putin promises Russia will “do all that we can to move the conflict in eastern Ukraine from Monday’s military phase to" a negotiated solution.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday ordered all Ukrainian forces to cease military operations within 40 kilometers of the crash site, according to Russian news service Interfax. Russian Joint Staff Main Operations Directorate Chief, Lieutenant General Andrei Kartopolov said that the Russian government has evidence that a Ukrainian combat jet was in the vicinity of the plane shortly before it was shot down, the news service reports.

Four days later, nearly all of the bodies of those onboard the plane have been recovered. During a Monday press conference, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that the bodies of 272 of the 298 people onboard the plane have been recovered. Many of the bodies are being stored in refrigerated rail cars under rebel control.

Dutch investigators and crews from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe arrived at the scene on Monday, after the Malaysian Transport Minister said Sunday that a team of 133 Malaysian experts and officials were denied access to the site.

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