The full story of what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 may never be told, because pro-Russia separatist rebels in the area where the plane went down have planted deadly land mines on the roads around the crash site, Ukraine security officials now charge.
The Malaysia Airlines plane, investigators believe, was shot down by a missile fired by the rebels who want Russia to assume control over the area of eastern Ukraine, near the town of Torez, over which the plane was flying carrying its 298 passengers and crew, who all perished in the crash.
Fierce fighting and shelling in the area have also made it impossible for investigators to reach the site on any consistent basis, and recovery workers fear that the remains of some victims are still on the ground and in the remaining wreckage, decomposing badly in the summer heat that has reached 90 degrees.
A group of European investigators attempted to reach the Malaysia Airlines crash site on July 30, only to be turned away by hostile rebels. The Associated Press reports that 19 people have been killed in heavy fighting in the area where the plane’s remnants still lie, just between Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Militants brought a lot of heavy artillery and mined the roads leading to the territory,” said Andriy Lysenko of the Ukraine National Security and Defense Council. “This makes the work of the international experts impossible.”
Debris from the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash covers a large field of about 13.5 square miles. The whole area is now surrounded by heavy artillery installed by the pro-Russia rebels, reports from the region say.
A NATO general also said that Russian troops have been observed massing on the border with Ukraine. General Philip Breedlove estimated their numbers at 12,000 with more being added.
“We watch the materials move from inside the central military district in Russia to the area of Rostov, where they are assembled, then meet, train, and move towards the border and we see them across the border,” said Breedlove.
Lysenko said that the Ukraine military was not fighting with the rebels directly around the crash site, but instead was taking steps to cut off the pro-Russia separatists supply lines, which would have the effect of forcing the rebels to move away from the area were the Malaysia Airlines plane went down.
A team of CNN journalists made it to the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 crash site on Wednesday, and reported seeing no rebel or Ukraine soldiers there. Nor were there any international investigators.