Australia’s efforts to retrieve more remains from MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine have been frustrated for the fourth day in a row.
A 200 person team of Australian and Dutch police investigators, accompanied by monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, suspended yet another attempt on Wednesday, Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement.
Negotiations to secure safe access to the site are continuing and the team will try again when “suitable arrangements” are in place, the AFP added.
Earlier attempts were hampered and eventually cancelled due to shooting and shelling in the region, where a conflict between Ukraine government soldiers and pro-Russian separatists continues to rage.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says Australia’s sole focus is retrieving more remains, as well as belongings, from the area in Donetsk where the Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down on July 17, killing 298 people including up to 39 Australian citizens and residents.
The remains of up to 200 people have already been retrieved and their identities are still being determined.
The US and Europe have imposed new sanctions on Russia’s energy sector, arms industry and financial institutions in response to the continuing conflict in Ukraine.
But Mr Abbott has indicated Australia has no immediate plans to follow suit.
Australia has already imposed travel bans and financial sanctions on dozens of Russian and Ukrainian individuals.
“I’m not saying that we might not at some point in the future move further,” he told reporters in Sydney.
“But at the moment our focus is not on sanctions. Our focus is on bringing home our dead as quickly as we humanly can.”
He said the investigators would keep trying day after day to enter the site.
The prime minister also laid down the law to any Australian thinking of getting involved in the Ukrainian conflict, after News Corporation Australian reported an Australian-born Cossack was being monitored by the spy agency ASIO.
Sydney man Simeon Boikov flew to the Ukraine to recruit support for the pro-Russian rebels, and on his Facebook page claimed to have entered the war zone.
“I have a very strong message for any Australian who is thinking of going overseas to engage in a guerilla warfare, jihadism, anything of this nature – don’t do it,” Mr Abbott said.
“It is a serious crime, and if you come back to Australia you will be arrested, you will be charged, you will be jailed.”