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Dutch, Australians Again Attempt to Reach MH17 Crash Site

  • VOA News

Alexander Hug, deputy head of the OSCE mission to Ukraine, left, his colleagues and a pro-Russian rebel, 2nd right, examine a map as they try to estimate security conditions around the site of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the city of Donetsk

Alexander Hug, deputy head of the OSCE mission to Ukraine, left, his colleagues and a pro-Russian rebel, 2nd right, examine a map as they try to estimate security conditions around the site of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the city of Donetsk

Experts from the Netherlands and Australia tried on Thursday to reach the crash site in eastern Ukraine of downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 after several failed attempts this week.

Members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were also part of a team that was trying to navigate a safe route to the area where the plane went down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew.

“The goal is to reach the spot where MH17 crashed and evaluate safety on the route from Donetsk,” the Dutch team said in a statement.

OSCE Deputy Chief Monitor Alexander Hug said he would not stop until the mission was complete.

Although most of the bodies have been recovered from the site, there are still human remains and personal belongings to be secured.

On Wednesday, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine said that every day investigators are denied safe passage to the site of the crash "is another day wasted."

Speaking at a news conference in Donetsk, OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw said that the crash site was "vulnerable" to the summer weather.

Stopped by fighting

The area has been inaccessible all week due to fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces, who have accused rebels of placing land mines to prevent a proper investigation.

Also Thursday, Australia's prime minister and foreign minister sent mixed messages on whether Russia was frustrating Dutch and Australian police efforts to retrieve the bodies of victims of the Malaysian airliner disaster in war-torn east Ukraine.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she feared Russia was behind the daily artillery barrages blocking police, while Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it was too early to judge, The Associated Press reported.

Abbott has declined to follow the U.S. and European examples by ratcheting up sanctions against Russia in a bid to pressure President Vladimir Putin into ending his country's support for the separatists.

Bishop said the remains of 80 of the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down on July 17 could remain at the crash site, which is being fiercely fought over by Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists.

The primary role of police is to retrieve the dead, but they also want to gather evidence to prove who fired the surface-to-air missile. The separatists are the main suspects.

"My great fear is Russia is actively undermining this process. We've had the strongest possible support from the Ukrainian government but still the fighting goes on and there is no ceasefire," Bishop told Australian Broadcasting Corp. from Kyiv.

"Whilst I can't point my finger at who starts the shelling, we get absolute assurances from the Ukraine government that it's not them," she said, adding that intelligence suggested missiles came from the Russian side.

Abbott declined to say whether Putin had acted adequately to bring about a cease-fire. But Bishop challenged Putin to do more.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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