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Investigation team to enter MH17 Ukraine crash site today

Members of a special team investigating the final moments of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 will step into the crash site in Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine on Monday to officially begin their probe. Malaysian Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said in a statement that the security situation at the site -- controlled by pro-Russian separatists engaged in constant fighting with Ukrainian government forces -- is now conducive to the investigation, which enables the investigators to move into the area. The highly skilled team comprise of experts from Malaysia, Australia and the Netherlands. "A combined task force in Kharkiv has decided that a Malaysian team of 21 people will be deployed to the forward operations base in Soledar, about a four-hour journey from Kharkiv," the minister said. The crash site is about an hour's journey from the forward operations base. It is more than two weeks since the passenger jet came down after appearing to have been hit by a missile, killing all 298 people on board. Since then deadly clashes between Ukrainian government troops and pro-Russian rebels have continued nearby the 20 sq km site, hindering international attempts to investigate exactly what happened. Ukraine has said it has suspended offensive operations in the region to help investigators reach the site, while separatists have accused Kiev of blocking access by fighting in the area.

Hamidi said Malaysia would extend full assistance to the international security forces involved in the investigation into the crash, to discover the truth behind the downing of the commercial jet, which killed all 298 on board.

A minister contacted by the Anadolu Agency on Monday confirmed that the next-of-kin of each passenger of MH17 is expected to get initial compensation of $50,000 (approximately RM160,000).

The payment -- to be dished out by financially ailing carrier Malaysia Airlines -- is expected to be made soon, said Women, Family and Community Development Minister Rohani Abdul Karim.

Karim said that to-date, about 25 family members of those on board the MH17 flight have received $5,000 early assistance money from Malaysia Airlines, to help-out in daily expenditures.

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