Investigators at the MH17 crash site in Eastern Ukraine are growing increasingly more frustrated with their inability to access the crime scene. When the plane first crashed, pro Russian separatists took over the site, setting the times and spaces at which the investigators could work. While the separatists did seem to let up a bit last week, they are now once again becoming problematic for the investigators.
The Dutch investigators who arrived over the weekend have still yet to see the wreckage or look for human remains. The team of 45 is composed of Dutch and Australian experts, as well as monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. They have, at this time, abandoned the search due to the explosions in the area, as Ukrainian and separatist forces continue to do battle nearby.
OSCE spokesman Michael Bociurkiw told CNN, "We're really sick and tired of being delayed. This is a huge waste of time and resources." Bociurkiw explained further, "We all know there are still human remains out there exposed to the elements, No. 1. 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."
While the global community has called for a ceasefire and President Petro Poroshenko aimed to rope off a 40-kilometer space around the crash site, the area remains dangerous. Vladimir Antyufeev, the acting Prime Minister for the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic told CNN, "Safe work of experts and observers is impossible."
While the Malaysian, Australian and Dutch governments have aimed to send their own officials there, they are facing trouble gaining access to the area even around the crash scene. The Malaysian government reported their unarmed police officers could not reach the scene due to the fighting. Australian Federal Police commissioner Andrew Colvin has said, "This is a contested zone. There is active fighting going on."
Still, the investigators have been trying to gain access to the site every day to recover the wreckage and remaining body parts. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has stressed that the investigators inability to get to the site is in direct violation of international law. "This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime. It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event."
Malaysian and Ukrainian officials have been able to recover the black boxes from MH17. With this information, they were able to determine that shrapnel caused a "massive explosive decompression." The self appointed commander-in-chief of the pro-Russian separatists, Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, maintains that the separatists did not take down the plane. In a brief press conference today, he said his troops do not have a BUK surface-to-air missile, "Therefore, I could not have given an order to use one." The separatists did take responsibility for the crash in the immediate aftermath, though quickly rescinded this.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.