A team of investigators from Australia and the Netherlands, determined to process the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine, was turned back for the second day in a row today.
The flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew on board.
Michael Bociurkiw, the spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told CNN that teams “had traveled a fair distance to the crash site, probably a little over halfway there” with “the biggest ever contingent of experts attempting to get up there.”
“We had secured overnight, or at least we thought, assurances from both sides, the Ukrainian side and the rebel side, that we would have safe and unimpeded access. And then what happened near the town on the rebel side, there was quite loud shelling nearby. We took the decision ourselves, consulting with our Dutch and Australian friends, to turn the convoy around. It just didn’t seem safe to proceed,” Bociurkiw said.
“And we can’t say this enough. It’s unacceptable what happened. The site is vulnerable, as you know, to natural and manmade factors, and we’re really sick and tired of being delayed. This is the second day in a row now.”
The Kremlin said President Vladimir Putin spoke two days ago with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott as Australia’s request.
“The two leaders continued to exchange views on various aspects of the organization of a fair and independent international investigation of the Malaysian jet crash in Ukraine,” the Kremlin said. “They noted the need to consistently implement Security Council Resolution 2166, primarily the clause dealing with the termination of military actions by all parties as a prerequisite for ensuring the unhampered work of international experts in the catastrophe area.”
Bociurkiw said the team of experts on the ground “have been preparing for two days to get to work, to really actually accelerate their work, because everyone knows that time is of the essence.”
“We all know there are still human remains out there exposed to the elements, number one,” he said. “Secondly, it is one of the biggest open crime scenes in the world as we speak, and it is not secured. There’s no security perimeter around the 30 or 35 square kilometer site. So it is, again, vulnerable to many different factors. The experts are more than prepared to go there and resume that collection, retrieval of human remains, and also to examine the debris and then prepare it for probably transfer elsewhere.”
“We will keep trying every day. We will try again tomorrow. I’m sure in between now and then there will be very stern talks with both sides that we need to get there as soon as possible and unimpeded, because, again, it’s in nobody’s interest that these visits do not take place… We had thought that, for at least a few hours today the guns will be put down, the checkpoints will disappear, but that obviously did not happen.”