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Clashes prevent experts from reaching bodies

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Almost two weeks after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was blown out of the sky, the remains of some passengers are feared rotting in the 90-degree (32-degree Celsius) midsummer heat, deepening the frustration of relatives desperate to recover the bodies of their loved ones.

Fighting between Ukrainian forces and separatist rebels has kept away international police charged with securing the site, a sprawling area of farmland and villages. And until it's secured, there is no way for forensic experts to gather up any remaining bodies or collect debris for analysis.

Even the rebels - who initially oversaw the collection of more than 200 of the 298 bodies in a disorganized, widely criticized effort - have stopped their work, saying attacks from the Ukrainian military have forced them to focus on defending themselves.

It remains unclear exactly how many bodies remain and what condition they are in after being exposed for so long to the elements. Dutch officials are adamant there are still bodies to be recovered, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said repeatedly that bringing them back is his government's top priority.

But Dutch officials were gloomy Wednesday about the prospects of reaching the site any time soon.

"We don't expect the security situation to improve enough over the next few days to make this possible," said Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the Dutch-led recovery mission.

Two crucial pieces of evidence - the flight recorders - have already been retrieved and analyzed, however.

The U.S. and Ukrainian governments say the Boeing 777 was brought down July 17 by a Russian-made missile fired by eastern Ukraine's pro-Moscow separatists. The separatists deny it; Russia denies providing the Buk missile launcher and says the Ukrainian military may have shot the plane down.

After the investigative team's failure to reach the site on Wednesday, the United Nations called on both sides in Ukraine's grinding civil conflict to cease hostilities in the area.

"The families of the victims of this horrific tragedy deserve closure and the world demands answers. International teams must be allowed to conduct their work," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

In their latest attempt to get to the wreckage zone, observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe left in two vehicles from the rebel-held city of Donetsk but got only as far as the city's outskirts.

The observers talked with rebels and turned back after being "warned of gunfire on the route and in the surrounding areas," the Dutch said in a statement.

Recent offensives by the Ukrainian army have enabled it to take back swaths of territory from the rebels. But the fighting has edged ever closer to the crash zone.

"We are still waiting and it is a miserable process," said Jasmine Calehr, the grandmother of two Dutch brothers who died in the crash.

Despite her mounting frustration, Calehr said she did not want investigators to go unless it was safe.

"Other people are not supposed to risk their lives," she said. "But that there is nobody strong enough to put pressure on a bunch of rebels is very painful."

Ukraine's U.N. Ambassador Yuriy Sergeyev said in New York that Ukrainian forces have adhered to President Petro Poroshenko's order not to conduct operations within a 40-kilometer (24-mile) radius of the crash site. He accused the rebel side of bombing the site.

Sergeyev said Ukrainian forces are trying to "liberate the villages and the cities around this site and to give the possibility to international experts to come in."

Of the 298 who died, 194 were Dutch citizens, and Ukraine has asked for their government's help in investigating the crash. Thirty-seven were from Australia. A total of 227 coffins have been flown to the Netherlands for identification and investigation.

With the debris field left unsecured over the past two weeks, international observers say wreckage has been cut, moved or otherwise tampered with.

Ukrainian government security spokesman Andriy Lysenko added to security concerns Wednesday by accusing the separatists of mining the approaches to the area. Even if rebels leave, he said, it will take time to remove the mines and make the area safe for investigators.

Meanwhile, the head of Ukraine's security services revealed what he said was fresh satellite imagery proving Russia had created a major cross-border corridor for the delivery of military equipment to the rebels.

Valentyn Nalyvaichenko said other photographs showed burn marks from rockets fired at Ukrainian troops from a position two kilometers inside Russian territory.

Related Gallery:

Dutch mourn victims of MH17 crash

Join the discussion

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MERLIN July 30 2014 at 6:47 PM

people who have no respect for life cant be expected to respect the dead

Flag Reply +14 rate up
3 replies
pfgroce2 July 30 2014 at 7:15 PM

I have worked in the aviation industry for 36years, the "souls on board should be treated with respect" Nothing was ever shown here. If Putin needs land go on a video game called civilization and conquer at least you are not killing anyone. Putin give up your dictatorship, yu are a thing of the past! NOt the FUTURE!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
2 replies
vladswim pfgroce2 July 30 2014 at 7:42 PM

If you worked 36 years in the aviation industry then you should know that flying over a war zone in a civilian plane is not the best decision the airline can make.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
2 replies
ga7smi vladswim July 30 2014 at 8:37 PM

thank you for the insight and good advise

Flag +1 rate up
mhdjl vladswim July 31 2014 at 1:38 AM

Some reports at the time that the plane went down said that most airlines made a point of avoiding the area, even though it made flight routes longer and burned more fuel. Malaysia Airlines did not make the same decision.

Flag +1 rate up
richie3gs pfgroce2 July 31 2014 at 7:57 AM

You so easy to point fingers stupid look at facts..
accident didn't happened over Ukraine there is war going on in that country
president should declare NO Fly zone
Malaysian airlines fly to save money putting people in danger

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Welcome Justin July 30 2014 at 6:37 PM

After the investigative team's failure to reach the site on Wednesday, the United Nations called on both sides in Ukraine's grinding civil conflict to cease hostilities in the area.

Funny how there weren't any hostilities in the area until after the plane went down, then the Ukrainian military launched a new offensive in the area. Curious why they are trying to stall the recovery operation ?

Flag Reply +7 rate up
2 replies
wntuc Welcome Justin July 31 2014 at 12:55 AM

THANKYOU!!! The investiagators could get in if Ukraine stopped. I actually believe they will bomb the site evidence which is why they are "pre-accusing" the rebels of doing it.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
ramonbatt Welcome Justin July 31 2014 at 2:20 AM

Funny how we have cowards doing nothing! UN? Cowards,,, EU,,,, cowards,,,,,we? Cowards!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
vladswim July 30 2014 at 6:38 PM

What's wrong U.S and Europe? If you care so much about those bodies then why don't you use your influence over Poroshenko and persuade him to a ceasefire.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
10 replies
cliffy934 July 30 2014 at 7:33 PM

What in the hell is wrong with mankind? Can't they stop their fighting long enough to let investigators in the area, and collect all the remains of the victims. This is a total disaster, and the leaders of these countries should be ashamed of themselves to be letting this happen. Let the investigators in, and after all bodies have been recovered and the investigation completed, then you can continue killing off each other. Otherwise, have some compassion for the victims and their families for Gods sake.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
mamaava July 30 2014 at 7:14 PM

What sicko told the Rebels to put MINES around the wreckage..it only substantiates the belief that "it smells in the Kremlin"!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
debnaert July 30 2014 at 6:34 PM

NOW the WORLD knows what these RUSSIANS are.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
3 replies
dennislee431 July 30 2014 at 7:16 PM

needs to send troops to the site to gather the reains the UN has a fighting force tie to use it

Flag Reply +4 rate up
eleanoreln July 30 2014 at 7:27 PM

Wake up and smell the coffee. The man pulling the strings is botox Putin. His tactics are similar to those of Hitler in WW2. Putin has already broken a nuclear testing treaty. The weapons are supplied by him. Undercover Russian soldiers are along the border and inside the country. There is proof of weapons having been fired from within Russia. And stupid Europe is just fiddling away as he does it. History is repeating itself. I am waiting for someone to say,"We will have peace in our time."

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
ddoddr9623 eleanoreln July 30 2014 at 11:08 PM

Wrong, so wrong.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
Welcome Justin July 30 2014 at 6:38 PM

The observers talked with rebels and turned back after being "warned of gunfire on the route and in the surrounding areas," the Dutch said in a statement.

So the separatists are cooperating and even protecting the investigators. Why is the Ukrainian gov not doing the same ?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
vladswim Welcome Justin July 30 2014 at 6:45 PM

Ukraine government wants to blow up the rebels and the OSCE, its a double win for them.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
tomra1212 Welcome Justin July 30 2014 at 7:28 PM

Lets go fund raising

Flag Reply 0 rate up
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