August 01, 2014 08:10
An international team of experts has reached the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine for the first time, after days of attempts foiled by violence in the separatist-controlled area.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced the development Thursday, saying a small team of its monitors, accompanied by four Dutch and Australian experts, had reached the site using a new route.
Reaching the crash site means the team can begin collecting key evidence from the crash and gain access to the human remains that have not yet been moved for identification.
An OSCE spokesman said to CNN television the team managed to reach the crash site thanks to "a lot of negotiation in a short amount of time." On its Twitter feed, the OSCE said the team is expected to do "initial reconnaissance" and will start searching for evidence and remains as soon as possible on a later visit.
Earlier Thursday, Ukraine announced a one-day halt in its fight against the pro-Russian rebels in the area to allow the international investigators to reach the crash site.
Kyiv said the move was in response to a plea by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop fighting and allow the team in.
Families of the victims of the crash, which killed 298 people July 17, have been anxious for investigators to reach the scene. Some human remains are believed still at the site, after about 200 sets of remains were transferred to the Netherlands for identification last week.
Video shot Wednesday by a CNN team that managed to reach the site showed broken pieces of luggage, travel books, a pair of blue jeans, and parts of the plane riddled with holes, all scattered across a field full of grass and wildflowers in some locations and charred bare in others.
Speaking during a visit to the Netherlands, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Thursday called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine." He also stressed that investigators need to be given full access to the crash site.
U.S. analysts say the Malaysia Airlines plane -- downed over eastern Ukraine -- was destroyed by a Russian missile likely fired by rebels who believed the aircraft was Ukrainian.
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