Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash investigators reach Ukrainian site

Despite nearby fighting between Ukrainian troops and separatist rebels, international aviation experts made their way to the crash site in eastern Ukraine Thursday.

Dmitry Lovetsky/AP
An Ukrainian soldier stands guard next to a convoy of OSCE vehicles at a check-point in the village of Debaltseve, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine Thursday, July 31, 2014.

As fighting raged in eastern Ukraine, an international team of investigators on Thursday reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and got a first look at where it was brought down by a missile two weeks ago.

Clashes along routes to the wreckage site between government troops and pro-Russian separatist rebels had kept the delegation from reaching the area to retrieve bodies that have been lying in open fields where midsummer temperatures have hovered around 90 degrees for the last several weeks.

But the investigators were allowed early Thursday afternoon through a checkpoint leading to the crash site at the village of Rozsypne by a rifle-toting militiaman who then fired a warning shot to prevent reporters from accompanying the convoy.

The militiaman, who gave his name only as Sergei, said there was still fighting happening in Rozsypne as the Ukrainian army continues an offensive to take back swatches of territory from the rebels.

The team of police and forensic experts, which comprises members from the Netherlands and Australia, are expected to initially focus their efforts on retrieving bodies still on the site and collecting victims' belongings.

As many as 80 bodies are still at the site, said Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation from Ukraine.

Ukrainian national security spokesman Andriy Lysenko said a "day of quiet" was declared Thursday in response to a call for a cease-fire from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

But Associated Press reporters near the crash site confirmed Thursday that clashes were still taking place in the immediate vicinity of where the Boeing 777 came down.

Reporters who attempted to reach the crash site by another route were warned by residents that some nearby roads have been mined and saw a mortar round land near Hrabove, another village around which fragments of the plane remain uncollected.

Thursday's drive took the convoy of investigators and Organization for Security and Cooperation officials from the rebel-held city of Donetsk through the town of Debaltseve, which was earlier this week retaken by the government, and later back into rebel territory.

Armored personnel carriers and waving the blue-and-yellow Ukrainian national flag could be seen in and around Debaltseve.

At one entrance to Debaltseve, local residents walked along a pontoon erected over the remains of a blown-up bridge.

A delegation from Russia's state aviation body said Thursday it also hoped to visit the site, an agency spokesman said.

Sergei Izvolsky told the AP that a delegation of Russian specialists from Rosaviatsiya was due in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, on Thursday to work with Australian and Dutch investigators and examine the wreckage of the plane. Representatives of the Dutch and Ukrainian commissions would not comment on the arrival of Russian officials.

Ukraine's parliament, meanwhile, voted not to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Yatsenyuk had said last week he was resigning after two parties left the coalition supporting him and parliament balked at passing laws he said were essential to fund the country's war against pro-Russian separatists.

While the confidence vote ensures some continuity in the country's turbulent political system, President Petro Poroshenko has said he wants new parliamentary elections held soon.

The current legislature is a leftover of the period of rule of former President Viktor Yanukovych, who was overthrown in February. Before Yanukovych's ouster, parliament was dominated by his Party of Regions, which has since lost many of its members to defection.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.