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Items of MH17 victims disturbed at Ukraine site, monitors say

DONETSK, Ukraine — European monitors on Friday indicated for the first time that credit and debit cards belonging to people who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine had been moved inappropriately, though it was unclear whether anybody had tried to use them.

Debris from Flight 17 spilled over dozens of square miles, extending across sunflower fields, forests and villages. The huge site is almost wholly unguarded, though pro-Russian militants who control it have denied that looting has been allowed.

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The movement of credit cards was the latest sign of tampering with the wreckage in ways large and small. The United States and Ukraine say the airliner was shot down by a missile, likely supplied by Russia, from territory occupied by the same separatists who control the debris field.

The monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe visits the debris site daily, though it has no control over it. On Friday, the group found cards and passports at two locations where they had not been seen before.

The cards and documents looked fresh, as if they had not been exposed to the elements for a week, for reasons that were entirely unclear to the monitors.

“There’s nothing to explain how it landed there,” Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the organization, said of the strange discovery. “But it was there.”

Reports of looting have swirled for a week. Dutch officials say they are monitoring bank accounts of the dead passengers. As recently as Thursday, Bociurkiw said his agency had not seen any sign of looting. Malaysian investigators said they saw valuables in the fields untouched, including unopened backpacks, a watch and jewelry.

Ukraine has ceded control of the inquiry into the downing of Flight 17 to the Netherlands, the nation with the largest number of citizens on board, and the Dutch government has pressed to secure the site or at least the safety of an investigative team still waiting in Kiev for safe access. The Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte, said his government intended to send 40 unarmed border police. The Australian government is also pressing to deploy police to protect the site.

On Friday, the militia at the site apparently rejected this suggestion. Bociurkiw said the armed men controlling the area wanted no more than 35 investigators.

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