THE HAGUE: The site in eastern Ukraine where flight MH17 crashed two months ago is still too unsafe for investigators to resume the recovery of victims’ remains, Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said Thursday.
A ceasefire between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian government forces “is being violated and its existence remains fragile,” she said in a statement issued in The Hague.
“At this moment the situation is not stable enough to resume the investigation,” the minister said after meeting her Malaysian counterpart Hishammuddin Hussein.
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed on July 17 between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur when it was struck by what investigators determined were numerous “high-energy objects” over territory held by pro-Moscow separatists, killing all 298 on board.
The findings released in an initial report by a Dutch-led team of air crash investigators on Tuesday appear to back up claims that the Boeing 777 was hit by an anti-aircraft missile.
Kiev and the West have accused separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Moscow.
Moscow and the rebels deny this and point the finger at Kiev.
Initially, forensic experts travelled to the crash site near the town of Grabove to collect body parts, but the search has been suspended for a month because of heavy fighting in the area.
Forensic experts hope to return to the site if the ceasefire holds and before the onset of winter.
The ceasefire signed last Friday — the first backed by both Kiev and Moscow since fighting erupted across Ukraine’s industrial heartland in April — has so far held despite accusations of violations on both sides.
The Netherlands lost 193 citizens, Malaysia lost 43 and Australia 27.
So far 193 crash victims of the crash had been identified in total.
Hishammuddin in Moscow on Wednesday also called for experts to carry out a final search at the crash site.
“We are in agreement,” Hennis-Plasschaert said after the meeting in The Hague.
“We still have people who are closely watching developments. As soon as we can, we’ll return to the crash site together,” she said.