Repatriation efforts stopped as civil war hits MH17 site
UPDATE: THE international operation to repatriate victims of the Malaysia Airlines tragedy with loved ones has received a setback after heavy fighting broke out near the crash site in war-torn eastern Ukraine.
It has been more than a week since MH17 was blown out of the sky, killing 298 people including 38 Australian citizens and residents.
Heavy fighting between Russian-backed militants and Ukraine military forces broke out on Monday (Australian time) and prevented forensic experts, officials and investigators from gaining access to the crash site to recover the remains of more than 90 passengers.
Australian Federal Police national security deputy commissioner Andrew Colvin told ABC radio on Monday officers had been planning to accompany a Dutch contingent to the site but had to abort their mission.
"Basically our access in and out . . . there is fighting along the roads, there is fighting at the scene and it is simply too dangerous for us," he said.
The latest setback comes less than a day after Prime Minister Tony Abbott gave 'Operation Bring Them Home' the green light.
"Our objective is to get in, to get cracking and to get out . . . that is our objective," he said.
" ... In a difficult environment and the risks are real.
"Meticulous planning has gone into mitigating these risks and we are working closely with our international partners to ensure the mission proceeds safely and successfully."
Mr Abbott said the Dutch-led multinational police mission to the crash site was a humanitarian one.
"Our objective is principally to recover the bodies. That is what the Australian people expect of us," he said.
"That is what grieving families around the world deserve."
Shadow Foreign Affairs Minister Tanya Plibersek said the Opposition was fully supportive of the mission to recover bodies, their identification and repatriate them to grieving families
"The nation's shock and grief has turned to frustration as we wait for answers to this unspeakable crime," she said.
7.46AM: Violence around the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 forced Australian and Dutch investigators to remain in their hotel on Sunday, despite Malaysia announcing it had reached a deal for unfettered access.
At one stage, the Australian Federal Police mission, headed by Commander Brian McDonald, was seen in deep negotiation with the rebel fighters in Donetsk who regularly escort foreign experts to and from the crash site, about 100 kilometres to the east.
The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting Alexander Hug, deputy leader of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation Europe team that provides operational assistance to foreign experts on the ground, told reporters: "We were planning to go to one of the sites, but security at the site and on the road to it is not acceptable ... not appropriate for an unarmed mission such as this."
Flanked by Mr McDonald and his Dutch counterpart, Mr Hug said the investigators were being guided by the separatist fighters.
"We have had indications of fighting and we can't take the risk," he said.
On Sunday night, the AFP released a statement confirming the postponing of the mission until it was safer for investigators to reach the site.