News / Europe

Team Calls Visit to MH17 Crash Site in Ukraine a Success

  • Alexander Hug (center), deputy head of OSCE, Europe's monitoring mission in Ukraine, stands next to armed pro-Russian separatists as the convoy makes its way to the MH17 crash site outside Donetsk, July 30, 2014.
  • An Ukrainian government army soldier stands guard next to the convoy of the OSCE mission in Ukraine, at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, July 31, 2014.
  • Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte prior to their talks in The Hague, Netherlands, July 31, 2014.
  • People walk across a heavily damaged bridge near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, July 31, 2014.
  • Ukrainian troops on the move near the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine, July 31, 2014.
  • People ride motorcycles past spent ammunition, in the suburbs of Donetsk, July 29, 2014.
VOA News

Investigators in eastern Ukraine reached the wreckage of a downed Malaysian airliner Thursday.

It was their first look at the July 17 crash site after earlier attempts were blocked by armed pro-Russian rebels.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced the development Thursday, saying a small team of its monitors, accompanied by four Dutch and Australian experts, had reached the site using a new route.

As the investigators - two each from the Netherlands and Australia - made an initial survey of the area shortly after lunchtime, fighting raged between government forces and pro-Russian separatist rebels, and mortar shells rained down on fields in a nearby village, The Associated Press reported.

Initial visit a success

Despite the dangers, upon returning to the rebel-held city of Donetsk, the team called the one-hour inspection a success.

Alexander Hug, deputy head of the OSCE (Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe) mission to Ukraine, told AP the team had gathered vital information regarding the security situation on the ground, which would allow them to return and start work in earnest.

He said the biggest risk was that rebels in the area were "very nervous."

"Today was more about an assessment of the site than it was a search,"  Australian Federal Police commander Brian McDonald, who is working with the OSCE team, told AP.

Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the Dutch-led international team investigating the disaster, said at a news conference in Kyiv that experts on Thursday had not seen any bodies but would begin searching for human remains and belongings on Friday.

'A lot of negotiation'

An OSCE spokesman said to CNN television that the team managed to reach the crash site thanks to "a lot of negotiation in a short amount of time."

On its Twitter feed, the OSCE said the team is expected to do "initial reconnaissance" and will start searching for evidence and remains as soon as possible on a later visit.

Earlier Thursday, Ukraine announced a one-day halt in its fight against the pro-Russian rebels in the area to allow the international investigators to reach the crash site.

Kyiv said the move was in response to a plea by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop fighting and allow the team in.

Families of the victims of the crash, which killed 298 people July 17, have been anxious for investigators to reach the scene. 

Some human remains are believed still at the site, after about 200 sets of remains were transferred to the Netherlands for identification last week.

Video shot Wednesday by a CNN team that managed to reach the site showed broken pieces of luggage, travel books, a pair of blue jeans, and parts of the plane riddled with holes, all scattered across a field full of grass and wildflowers in some locations and charred bare in others.

Speaking during a visit to the Netherlands, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday called for an" immediate cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine." He also stressed that investigators need to be given full access to the crash site.

Russian missile

U.S. analysts say the Malaysia Airlines plane - downed over eastern Ukraine - was destroyed by a Russian missile likely fired by rebels who believed the aircraft was Ukrainian.

In other developments, Ukraine's parliament approved legislation boosting funding for the fight for control of Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.  Lawmakers also voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who announced his departure last week after the two parties backing him left the ruling coalition.

In Brussels, meanwhile, the European Union formally adopted broad economic sanctions against Moscow for its support of rebels in Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine.

The new measures, agreed to after months of EU debate, target Russia's banking, energy, and defense sectors.  The EU's official journal named banking giants Sberbank, VTB, Gazprombank, VEB and Rosselkhozbank.  U.S. President Barack Obama announced separate penalties Wednesday in Washington.

Russia's Foreign Ministry called the EU - US sanctions -- the strongest against Moscow since the end of the Cold War - "destructive and short-sighted."  It also accused Washington of behaving in a "pretentious, prosecutorial manner" that will lead to "further aggravation of U.S.-Russia relations."

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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Comment Sorting
by: David from: Sydney
August 01, 2014 2:18 AM
Pro Russian Rebels did not block anything-ukrainian army hoped to secure the sight and show international observers how well then can fight, while bombing civilians.

by: mr nobody from: USA
August 01, 2014 2:04 AM
"U.S. analysts say the Malaysia Airlines plane - downed over eastern Ukraine - was destroyed by a Russian missile likely fired by rebels who believed the aircraft was Ukrainian"

So, A Russian missile fired by a "visiting" Russian citizen paid by the Russian government illegally transported into Ukraine downed a Malaysian airliner full of international civilians in Ukrainian airspace.

But the shooter thought that it was a Ukrainian airliner full of international civilians in Ukrainian airspace?

Or the shooter was firing into a crowded Ukrainian airspace blindly, hoping that he hit a Ukrainian military aircraft?

Is there a way to tell the story that is not state sponsored stupidity?

Now Crimeans not only have to put up with the loss of freedom in Russia, but the embarrassment as well.

by: Reinier Kanis from: Canada
August 01, 2014 1:58 AM
When you read that there was a ceasefire to allow investigators in, then it also makes perfect sense that it was the constant shelling by Kiev that prevented the investigation in the first place.

Sadly as in the case of courts when you have the verdict already decided by the jury, how could anyone claim that the investigators will not be a hung jury?

I don't blame the rebels for being worried, they are already guilty before the investigation started, how much more once its completed?

In the practical application of law, even if they end up accused of this horrible crash, by law if they flew over a war zone, it was a legal shootdown. I wonder if Americans would have felt equally as concerned if it was the Russian Presidential plane that got shot down?

by: Patrick from: Ca
August 01, 2014 1:47 AM
Putin is a dictator! What kind of country is Russia? Motherland? Or a throw back to czarist Russia? They already have one fifth of the worlds land mass, why do they need more? Stop messing around in Ukraine! And give them they're country and destiny back! Putin is out of control!
In Response

by: Reinier Kanis from: Canada
August 01, 2014 10:48 AM
Funny you should say that when its the Americans who have bases all over the world, they are the only nation aggressively attacking other nations almost annually since WWII, yet when Russia supports (Russian Ukrainians) you blame them for Ukrainian woes. There is absolutely no reason not to believe that this jet was not shot down by Kiev in order to do, exactly what they did, namely blame the Russians.

by: Murali from: Fremont, CA
August 01, 2014 1:09 AM
Stating that the investigators couldn't reach the crash site as they were "blocked by rebels" is WRONG.
It was the fighting and shelling between Ukrainian and pro-Russian rebels that prevented it.
As a media outlet please do not add your opinion to the news article.
In Response

by: anon from: anona
August 01, 2014 3:02 AM
you can see that from fresno?
In Response

by: Howard Beale from: NYC NY
August 01, 2014 3:01 AM
Murali it's VOA for Godsake.
That said Putin is still a totalitarian murderer.
In Response

by: Eric from: Missouri, USA
August 01, 2014 2:25 AM
If you would look at the statement rationally, perhaps even neutrally, and say you learn a bit of background information regarding the situation in Eastern Ukraine then you would understand that yes, the rebels were very intentionally and doggedly fighting to block access to the site until they recently surrendered to the reality that the chemical signature of the explosives used in the Russian SAM will be present even on some victims bodies, so trying to move/destroy the shrapnel damaged fuselage would prove to be fruitless. Now they will just move on the saying Ukraine military did it or the even more insane, "This is the other MH plane that disappears months ago.."
Russia needs to butt out before the UN grants Ukraine full member status and all the obligatory NATO defense that membership entails..

by: Mark from: Virginia
July 31, 2014 11:16 PM
US-Russian relations is in the toilet already. We are right back where we were 50 years ago, at the height of the Cold War. There was, briefly, a glimmer of hope in the early 1990s, but that is all washed out and down the drain now, too. The divide between Washington and Moscow is only going to widen, to a point where it will become irreparable and permanent. We are fast approaching that point now. Both sides of this idiotic ideological feud are to blame, and goes back further than the flare up of tensions in the Ukraine. The current crises in eastern Ukraine was just the match that ignited the whole thing, on a pyre that has been steadily being built as both sides have heaped wood and oil onto the pile for years.

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