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Australia, Netherlands plan fresh attempt to reach MH17 site

Heavy bombardments rocked towns close to the area where the plane was shot down

AFP/PTI  |  Sydney 

A team of Dutch and Australian police will today again attempt to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, a senior Australian official said, although he warned the situation was volatile.

An unarmed team of Dutch and Australian officers was forced to drop their plans to visit the site in eastern Ukraine yesterday as heavy bombardments rocked towns close to the area where the plane was shot down, killing all 298 on board.

And tensions led the Netherlands to scrap a plan to send an armed mission in to secure the site in the rebel-contested area, with the Dutch Prime Minister saying it was "not realistic".

Australian Federal Police deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin said another attempt would be made today.

"As you know, the mission was aborted overnight due to the intensity of the fighting occurring both on the route into the crash site as well as at the crash site itself," he told reporters.

"I recently got off the phone from our commander in Ukraine about the activities expected again for today and again in company with our Dutch counterparts and the OSCE (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe) monitors we will attempt again to gain access to the site today.

"Of course it is a highly volatile area and I should stress that safety is paramount in our minds, safety of the Australian and Dutch officials and the OSCE officers as well."

Earlier today, Colvin cautioned that if fighting in the area was a genuine offensive to take back ground, "we may be some days before we can feel safe and secure to go back in there".

He added that Australian police would have no role in securing the site and would only be involved in a detailed examination of the crash area, which Colvin estimated would take five to seven days initially.

Dutch authorities yesterday said the team was currently in Donetsk, a rebel stronghold about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from the crash site.

So far investigators have visited the site only sporadically because of security concerns, even though a truce had been called in the immediate area around the site by both the Kiev forces and pro-Russian separatists.

The Netherlands and Australia together lost some 221 citizens in the crash.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop arrived in Kiev day for talks with the Ukrainian government to try to ensure the safety of the Dutch and Australian team.

"We are aware this plane was shot down over a war zone and that news of the fighting has intensified is perhaps inevitable, but we are planning for those risks," she said.

First Published: Mon, July 28 2014. 12:40 IST