Investigators trying to reach bodies from the MH17 crash site had their search held off Monday as gunfire and shelling were reported in the area of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russia separatists and government forces have been fighting. The team of mainly Dutch and Australian experts were waiting for European monitors to give the go-ahead to resume the search.
The Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, the monitors overseeing the MH17 crash site, tweeted Monday that experts and monitors were "remaining stationary pending further security assessments":
Intl experts, SMMU monitors have arrived in region of #MH17 crash site but are remaining stationary pending further security assessments
— СММ ОБСЄ в Україні (@OSCE_SMM) August 4, 2014
“We’re waiting to hear from the OSCE, we need a couple of hours at this site, so a decision on proceeding will depend on if and when we get the OK,” Dutch police spokesman, Dennis Mulles, told Fairfax Media, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. “We’ll get there; we don’t know the timetable. It’s very disappointing because we’re here to do one thing -- to bring back the remains and the possessions. All the time we waste here is so precious.”
The halt in the search came a week after the experts finally reached the MH17 site, where separatists guarded the debris area. The Malaysia Airlines flight went down last month, with Ukraine and western intelligence sources claiming the plane was shot down by pro-Russia rebels using a Russian-made ground-to-air missile system. Russia denied any responsibility for the crash, instead blaming Kiev for instability in the region.
On Sunday, investigators searched a second site of MH17 wreckage in an area controlled by pro-Russia separatists. Over the weekend, human remains and personal items were recovered from the site.
“While no human remains were found [Sunday], there is still a large area to be searched,” Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, the leader of the Australian contingent of investigators, told the Morning Herald. “I respectfully ask for the continued patience and support of all parties as investigators proceed with their work. We know that the recovery of remains is vital for providing victims’ families with the closure they deserve at this difficult time. We can’t bring them back but we can bring them home.”