SHAKHTARSK, Ukraine, July 28 (UPI) -- Dutch and Australian police sent to Ukraine were unable to arrive and secure the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site due to heavy fighting in the area.
The unarmed police and forensic teams were stopped in the town of Shakhtarsk, about 20 miles from the crash site, as fighting between the Ukrainian military and pro-Russian separatists blocked the road to the fields where the plane crashed July 17. Securing the area controlled by the separatists, in order to initiate an investigation and recover any remaining bodies from the crash site, is the mission of the police.
The Netherlands lost 193 citizens in the destruction of the aircraft, and mounting evidence indicates a missile, fired from eastern Ukraine, was responsible for the crash.
While the teams waited in Shakhtarsk, a town of about 72,000 roughly halfway between the city of Donetsk and the Russian border, shelling could be heard and the roads were filled with cars of local residents leaving the area.
Plans for a joint armed forces unit to secure the site, of Dutch and Australian soldiers, were dropped Sunday by the Netherlands for fear of getting involved in the conflict.
"Getting the military upper hand for an international mission in this area is ... not realistic. We concluded with our international partners that there's a real risk of such an international military mission becoming directly involved in the conflict in Ukraine," Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.