Efforts to secure Malaysia Airlines crash site stalled
KHARKIV, Ukraine — An international push to secure the crash site of a Malaysian passenger jet shot down by a missile over eastern Ukraine stalled on Saturday, with the leader of a Dutch forensic mission announcing that scores of foreign police officers and experts gathered at a luxury hotel here would not start moving toward the site for at least five days.
Jan Tuinder, the head of a Dutch mission comprising 40 unarmed military police officers and around 20 forensic specialists, said the delay was needed to give the Ukrainian parliament time to vote Thursday to provide a “legal basis” for the deployment of foreign police officers on Ukrainian territory.
Efforts to reach the crash site had previously been hindered by heavily armed pro-Russia rebels, who control the area, but now another obstacle appears to be Ukraine, whose military has been gaining ground against the rebels and is wary of halting its offensive.
The jet, a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, crashed in territory in eastern Ukraine held by pro-Russia rebels on July 17, and while most of the bodies of the 298 victims of Flight 17 have now been recovered and flown to the Netherlands for identification, forensic investigators have not been able to reach the area in sufficient numbers to ensure that all the bodies have been found and collect debris that could provide evidence of who brought the plane down.
Officials from the Netherlands and other countries blamed the rebels for stalling access to the site.
On Saturday, Dutch police officers assembled in Kharkiv said they expected to leave for the crash area in the next day or so.
But Volodymyr Groysman, a Ukrainian deputy prime minister leading Ukraine’s response to the crash, said at a news conference Friday that parliament needed to endorse the deployment of foreign investigators in Ukraine and that he hoped that this could happen “next week.”
The delay could help reduce growing pressure on Ukraine to agree to a swift cease-fire with rebel fighters so that foreign investigators can travel to the crash site on a road heading south from Kharkiv, which runs through an area that saw heavy fighting Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia spoke on Saturday to the Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, and according to a brief statement on the Kremlin website, the two men agreed on the need to implement a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire around the crash site to ensure the “unhampered work of international experts in the catastrophe area.”