Australian Federal Police say it’s too dangerous to travel to the MH17 crash site and officers won’t be able to get there until the security improves.
There’s fighting along the roads, there’s fighting at the scene, it just simply too dangerous for us
Eleven unarmed AFP officers had been planning to accompany a 38-strong Dutch contingent to the crash site on Sunday, after Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced Australia’s involvement in the mission.
But AFP Deputy Commission for National Security Andrew Colvin said fighting was too intense at the crash scene for investigators to get in safely.
“Basically our access in and out – there’s fighting along the roads, there’s fighting at the scene, it just simply too dangerous for us,” he told ABC radio on Monday.
Mr Colvin said investigators were now talking with the Ukrainian government, the pro-Russian rebels and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to negotiate access to the site.
“We’re talking to everybody that we need to talk to and until it’s safe for us to go in we’ll just keep our distance,” he said.
Russian-backed separatists have agreed to allow an unarmed international police team to recover more bodies and start a forensic examination of wreckage.
Some 170 unarmed AFP officers have been deployed in Ukraine as part of the recovery effort.
The delay is a major blow to the police-led mission, whose objective is to “get in, get cracking and to get out”, Mr Abbott says.
Mr Colvin said the AFP would have no role in securing the site and would simply be involved in a detailed examination of the crash area.
“We want to recover the remains and the belongings of the victim, plus there is still forensic value in us taking evidence away from the site,” he said.
“Each day that diminishes so we need to get in as quickly as we can.”
A total of 298 people were killed, including 37 Australian residents and citizens, when the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over eastern Ukraine more than a week ago.