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Pro-Russian rebel leader steps aside for Ukrainian

The head of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" has stepped down in favour of a native Ukraine in a move regarded as an attempt to defuse claims the pro-Russian rebels are being directed by Moscow.

Alexander Borodai (left), the former leader of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic", shakes hands with his replacement, Alexander Zakharchenko. Credit: Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Aleksander Borodai said he would now serve as deputy leader to Alexander Zakharchenko, who is from Donetsk.

"After all, I am a native of Moscow and I think the DNR [Donetsk People's Republic] should be run by a person who is body and soul of Donbass," Borodai said in a reference to the wider Donetsk region.

Zakharchenko commands a heavily armed rebel unit called Oplot, which has taken part in some of the fiercest battles and has its origins in a martial arts club.

Analysts said the move was unlikely to have a significant influence on the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.

MH17 victims to be honoured at St James' Park

The two Newcastle United fans who died when flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine will be honoured with a minute's silence before the team's first Premier League game this season.

The two Newcastle United fans who died when flight MH17 was shot down will be honoured at St James' Park. Credit: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

John Alder, 63, and Liam Sweeney, 28, were on their way to New Zealand on the Malaysia Airlines flight to watch Newcastle play two friendlies there last month.

Tributes will be paid on Sunday August 17 at St James' Park before Newcastle play Manchester City.

Team captains Fabricio Coloccini and Vincent Kompany will lay wreaths at the centre circle before kick-off, accompanied by representatives of the families of both men.


Russia continues to threaten Ukraine, Nato chief says

The Nato Secretary General has accused Russia of continuing to destabilise Ukraine and called on Moscow to "step back from the brink".

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato Secretary-General, meets with Ukraine Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk in Kiev today. Credit: Andrew Kravchenko/Reuters

Anders Fogh Rasmussen said that rather than helping to stabilise the situation, Moscow's support for Ukrainian separatists continued to grow "in scale and sophistication".

Nato has warned that Russia has put 20,000 troops near the border with Ukraine and could be planning a ground invasion.

Fogh Rasmussen added that Moscow "should not use peace-keeping as an excuse for war-making" and that the shooting down of flight MH17 was a tragic consequence of its "reckless" policy of supporting the pro-Russian separatists.

Ukraine: Nato boss discusses possible 'Western alliance'

A protester sits in front of burning barricades during clashes with pro-government forces at Independence Square in Kiev August 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters

Nato Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk have discussed a possible Western alliance support for Ukraine's defence capacity, a Kiev government statement said.

The two men discussed ways in which a proposed NATO trust fund could be used to support Kiev's defence ability in areas including command and control, communications and cyber-defence, the statement also said.

Ukraine government suspends MH17 crash site truce

Forensic experts look at a makeshift marker denoting evidence during recovery work at the site of the downed Malaysian airliner MH17. Credit: Reuters

The Ukrainian government has suspended the ceasefire in the area surrounding the MH17 crash site after the recovery mission was halted yesterday, Reuters have reported.

Operation to recover MH17 victims halted amid fighting

The Netherlands is halting the operation to recover victims and debris of MH17 because of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the Dutch prime minister has said.

Mark Rutte told journalists in The Hague the risk posed to the team of 70 Australian, Dutch and Malaysian experts was too great to continue working in the area.

"The security situation in eastern Ukraine and the MH17 crash site has worsened by the day," Rutte said. "That is making it impossible for experts to do their work."

He said it made no sense to continue the operation under the current conditions.


Family 'happy and relieved' after MH17 victim identified

The family of MH17 victim Liam Sweeney - one of two Newcastle United fans killed in last month's plane crash - have said they are "happy and relieved to be getting (him) home" after his body was identified.

Liam Sweeney, 28, died along with fellow Newcastle fan John Alder on the Malaysian Airlines flight on 17 July.

Tributes were paid to Liam Sweeney and John Alder, who were travelling across the world to see their team play during a pre-season tour of New Zealand.

Liam Sweeney's father Barry later called for the bodies of his son and the other victims to be returned to their families in the aftermath of the tragedy.

Today's statement from the family read:

We are happy and relieved to be getting Liam home and hope that we can now move forward.

Our thoughts are with John Alder's family and the families of the other 296 victims.

We would ask that we are given some time and privacy to grieve as a family.

– Sweeney family statement

Touching memorial service for MH17 victims

The anguish of a mother and father whose three children died when Malaysia Airline flight MH17 was shot down over Ukraine was laid bare at an emotional memorial service in Australia.

A thousand people attended the service at Perth in Australia, to hear the children's parents speak of their loss.

ITV News reporter Ria Chatterjee reports.

MH17 children's last message before they died

This video is now their parent's most cherished possession but at the time it was filmed no one could predict what would happen.

Mo, Evie and Otis Maslin, aged 12, 10, and eight, all died on flight MH17 along with their grandfather Nick on July 17.

In what is now their last message, the happy and smiling youngsters ride their bikes and swing on a roundabout telling their auntie they will see her next year.

The video was played at a memorial service for them in Australia earlier today.

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