Militant members of the Donetesk Republican Party (DRP) resumed a bitter battle with Ukraine forces on Saturday. These unresolved differences, occurring in near proximity to the crash site of Flight MH17, continue to strain efforts to excavate the wreckage of Flight MH17.
Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 left the airport in Amsterdam, Netherlands, headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before making a deadly landfall in the rebel-held territory of Ukraine on July 17. DRP members claimed they were responsible for shooting a missile at the airliner, which carried nearly 300 passengers at the time.
Last week, responding to reports that DRP rebels were blocking entrance to the crash site, members of the UN Security Council spoke of the urgency of recovering the remaining evidence from Flight 17. Council members said Ukraine would be ultimately held responsible for any damage created by not showing respect for the loss of human lives.
Shortly after the meeting, Ukraine and DRP both agreed to allow international forensic teams from the Netherlands and Australia access to the location of the crash. Soon after the forensic investigation began, armed guards began circling the area where researchers were preparing to excavate the evidence. The armed guards surrounding the site were told that the forensic teams were there to search for all remains of the wreckage and the victims.
During the initial process which began in Ukraine last week, scientists quickly found 40 of the missing victims and two of the plane’s black boxes. Sources explained the rest of the search would be far more time-consuming because of the difficulty in identifying smaller pieces of the remains. Still, the researchers were determined to find the evidence before violent fighting disrupted the search.
Ukraine’s unresolved differences put a strain on the excavation of Flight MH17 when DRP militants began fighting in an area close to where the remains are located. At first, the researchers believed the gunshots heard in the air were coming from allies trying to secure the area from Ukraine rebels, sources said. As the shots got louder, forensic investigators noticed the shots were coming from Ukraine rebel gangs who had stationed themselves around the outside perimeter of the investigation field.
The prime minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, wrote in an email that arrangements had been made on Sunday with pro-Russian rebel leader Alexander Borodai to allow 30 unarmed international military troops to secure the area around the Ukrainian site while researchers looked for evidence. However, sources reported on Monday that the ongoing DRP revolt against the Ukraine government made retrieving evidence from the Flight 17 crash site too dangerous for researchers to continue with their investigation.
Although there are many villages near the area of the crash site, the closest city is Shakhtyorsk, located directly in the center of DRP occupation. Reporters told officials that armored military vehicles were spotted along the roadside for hours without identifying themselves. Sources also indicated that the main road in Shakhtyorsk leading to the crash site had been blocked off from additional international forensic teams and the recently deployed security guards. No statements have yet been made to address the blocked access to the only road leading to the crash site.
Because the dispute between Ukraine and DRP rebels has gone on long before the fatal crash of MH17 over the rebel-held territory, it is difficult to know for sure if the plane was directly targeted or if its destruction was an accident. No possibilities have been ruled out at this time as officials try to discern the events that led to Flight MH17 being shot out of the sky.
While Ukraine’s unresolved differences continue to put a strain on the excavation of Flight MH17, the families of the victims are very concerned with the difficulties that have occurred with the recovery of the plane. Many national observers believe that airplane accidents and tragedies are becoming more frequent and are taking place mostly in eastern parts of the world.