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Here’s how fighting in Ukraine is holding up the MH17 investigation

Again, fighting in the towns around the crash site made it impossible for Dutch and Australian authorities to get to the wreckage today.

Source: ZURAB DHZAVAKHADZE/ITAR-TASS

TWELVE DAYS AFTER the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down, international authorities still have not been able to get to the crash site to facilitate an investigation aimed at finding out exactly what happened on that day 298 people lost their lives.

Plans to send Dutch and Australian authorities to the area have been scrapped for a third time today and many of the victims’ remains still have not been even been removed from the site and returned home.

So, what’s holding it all up?

The area where the Malaysian Airlines flight came down in Ukraine is near the Russian border, where there have been raging battles between Ukranian forces and pro-Russian rebels. Over 1,000 people have been killed in the fighting since it kicked off in mid-April.

In the first 24 hours after the plane was shot down over Ukranian airspace, pro-Russian separatists who are controlling the area pledged to allow international investigators onto the site, as both sides sought to blame one another for bringing it down.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Though some work was done in the first couple of days to mark out bodies and recover the black boxes, reports from the scene indicated the operation was sloppy at best.

 

Two days after the disaster, separatists forces were blocking access to the site for Ukranian investigators and international observers.

Bodies recovered from the site were initially removed by rebels to an unknown location but a deal was later reached to hand over remains to the Netherlands. Rebels also agreed to give the plane’s black boxes to Malaysia.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Last Friday, a small group of Dutch and Australian investigators were sent to the site, accompanied by observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

However there was no large-scale deployment of experts or security personnel and the site today remains largely unsecured.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

Some family members also visited the site, like Jerzy Dyczynski and Angela Rudhart-Dycynski, whose 25-year-old daughter Fatima was a passenger:

Source: AP/Press Association Images

The couple, who live in Australia, crossed the territory held by rebels to reach the wreckage.

Source: AP/Press Association Images

On Saturday, Australian Prime Minsiter Tony Abbott said there are still human remains at the crash site. He told reporters that 190 Australian police would join a large-scale Dutch operation to secure the remains and help the investigation, stressing that it would be a humanitarian mission.

However, a day later, plans to visit the site were scrapped over security concerns.

Alexander Hug, deputy chief monitor of the Organization for Security and Cooperation commented:

There is fighting going on. We can’t take the risk. The security situation on the way to the site and on the site itself is unacceptable for our unarmed observer mission

Kiev said yesterday its troops had entered a string of towns around the scene of the Malaysian airliner disaster, including Shakhtarsk which lies 10 kilometres away.

Source: Reuters/YouTube

There were plans yesterday and again today for authorities to go to the site but fighting on and around the road to the crash made it too risky.

 

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called on the Ukrainian president to ask forces to halt hostilities in the area.

However the Ukrainian military confirmed that violence is still raging today, with pockets of insurgents continuing to fire on Ukrainian positions in nearby towns.

- With additional reporting from AFP.

Read: MH17 black boxes show crash caused by rocket shrapnel, says Ukrainian official>

Read: Downing of flight MH17 ‘may amount to a war crime’>

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