An Australian couple who lost their daughter in downed Malaysian flight MH17 has visited the crash site in rebel-held east Ukraine.
But the presence of the first relatives of victims to arrive at the scene came as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop advised families not to travel to the war zone.
Grief-stricken Jerzy Dyczynski and Angela Rudhart-Dyczynski’s 25-year-old daughter Fatima was one of 298 victims killed when the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight was shot down on July 17.
“She was full of life,” Rudhart-Dyczynski said about her only child at the site, explaining that she had insisted they be driven to the crash scene despite warning about fighting raging nearby.
She said they didn’t have enough money for the journey but received donations from neighbours.
Her daughter, who was studying for a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in Delft in The Netherlands, had wanted to be a pilot when she was a little girl, she said.
The woman hugged journalists present and thanked them for their work. The couple said they had come to see how the crash happened.
Her father wore a white T-shirt with a portrait of their daughter, who had been making her way to Australia to see her parents on the doomed flight.
“Fatima: We Love You”, the T-shirt read.
The parents were overcome with emotion as they walked through the scorched earth and laid a large bouquet of flowers on part of the debris.
They had arrived on a minibus at the separatist-held zone, ignoring their government’s safety warnings, and said they reached the area thanks to a Ukrainian couple.
They came despite escalating fighting in and around rebel-held Donetsk on Saturday – a few dozen kilometres from the area, with missile fire heard in several parts of the city.
Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on Saturday was asked what concerns she had for families attempting to visit the crash site, where up to 39 Australian citizens and residents had died.
“The Dutch government, and we agree with this, believe it would be very ill-advised to go to the site,” Ms Bishop told reporters.
“This is still in the middle of a war zone. There are heavily armed separatists who are engaged in conflict with Ukraine military and the separatists are around the crash site.”
The foreign minister added that the area was meant to be a crash-investigation site.
“We have to give the investigators every opportunity to find evidence in its place.
“So, as much as the families want to go there, we would ask that the allow us to carry out the investigation and enable them to travel there when it’s safe.
“There could be nothing more tragic than if something were to go wrong because they want onto the site too early.”