Netherlands Rules Out Armed Mission to MH-17 Crash Site; Fighting in Ukraine Hinders Investigation

(Photo: Reuters/Maxim Zmeyev)There were no reported survivors among the 280 passengers and 15 crew members.

The Netherlands, which has formally taken over the investigation of the downing of a Malaysia Airlines plane, has ruled out an international armed mission to secure the site in eastern Ukraine, where a fighting between separatists and government forces prevented a visit by international experts Sunday.

"We concluded there was a real risk that an international mission would immediately be involved in the conflict in Ukraine," the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Sunday, of a decision the country took along with Australia and Malaysia, according to Reuters.

It is "not realistic" to seek military dominance over heavily armed separatists in an area so near the Russian border, he added.

The flight MH 17, with 298 people and crew members aboard, crashed on July 17 near the town of Torez in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after being hit by a missile. The plane, Boeing 777, was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, and flying at about 33,000 feet when it was hit.

Forensic experts could not get access to the crash site to recover the remains of the passengers on Sunday due to heavy fighting.

Jan Tuinder, the head of the Dutch police mission in Ukraine, said that "there are still some lunatics taking actions that is making it hard for us to get to the bodies, to get to the remains."

"You call them terrorists, to me they're criminals. It's very nearly the same," Euronews quoted Tuinder as saying.

However, Malaysia Airlines issued a statement Sunday, saying, "Malaysia has secured an agreement with Ukrainian separatists, who control the area around the MH17 crash site, to allow a group of international police personnel to enter the area in order to provide protection for international crash investigators."

A total of 114 bodies have been brought to a military base in the Netherlands, where forensic experts will identify the bodies.

The region where the flight crashed has been troubled by fighting between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia militants seeking to declare the area an independent republic.

There were 193 people from the Netherlands – including 1 dual Netherlands/USA citizen – on the flight, the airline said in a statement Saturday evening. Also aboard were 43 citizens of Malaysia; 27 from Australia; 12 from Indonesia; 10 from the United Kingdom; 4 each from Germany and Belgium; 3 from the Philippines; and one each from Canada and New Zealand.

A memorial service for the MH17 victims was held at the crash site last week.

It is confirmed that Russia supplied sophisticated missile launchers to separatists and then sought to move them back across to Russia after the Malaysian plane crashed, a U.S. official told The Washington Post about a week ago.

Meanwhile, RIA Novosti reported Sunday that Russian Transport Ministry has formed a team to participate in the investigation of the plane crash. "A group of experts has been formed. They will participate in the investigation of the crash of a Malaysian Boeing 777, which happened on the territory of Ukraine on July 17, 2014. It has been headed by Oleg Storchevoy, the deputy head of Rosaviatsiya [Federal Air Transport Agency]," a ministry statement said.