MH17 was the first aircraft ever which crash into a warzone. This has a big impact on the investigations into the cause of the crash and who is responsible for downing.
Two seperate investigations are done. The Dutch Safety Board investigates the cause of the crash without looking for who did it. The Dutch prosecution investigates who is responsible for the downing of the aircraft.
When the aircraft crashed the crash location was under full control of the rebels. There is no doubt about that. Many photos and videos show rebels with guns guarding the area and preventing access.
This blog provides an overview of the situation around the crash site since the aircraft crashed.
The situation in East Ukraine at July 16. It is clear the area around the crash site and north of it are controled by the separatists.
The image below was taken from the BBC website.
For example Debalcevo (Debal’tseve) is clearly controlled by separatists.
Mind after the MH17 crash all of a sudden this area becomes strategically important.
MH17 crashed at July 17 (Thursday) in the afternoon. The Russian tv station Livenews.ru was on the spot as one of the first media. Also some photographers were on site a few hours later.
The OSCE arrived the next day at the scene. The OSCE was in East Ukraine to monitor the war. They were not allowed to enter all fields were debris were located. Especially the area where the cockpit was located was not accessible for OSCE for two days.
July 10: this video shows various roadblocks near Donetsk (Youtube)
At July 18 181 bodies had been recovered. That means bodies found and put near the road. (Trouw)
At July 18 the OCSE the 24-member delegation was given further access Saturday to the crash site but their movements were being limited by the rebels. (Skynews). Bodies were put in bodybags along the road.
After a couple of days the rebels became more relaxed. Many photos show fotographers, bystanders and some researchers close to the debris. Reports are that Ukraine aircraft safety experts have been in the area.
On Monday July 21 a train with bodies left Torez (The Guardian)
A lot of false or incomplete information has been spread, both by Western and Pro Russia media. For example Minister Timmermans told in a speech at the UN Security Council that separatists stole a ring of one of the victims. This was not true. See this video for the other side of the story.
Also on Monday July 21 United Nations Security Council Resolution 2166 was adopted unanimously. It says all parties should cooperate and provide access to international investigators to the crash site. Two of the statements are:
6. Demands that the armed groups in control of the crash site and the
surrounding area refrain from any actions that may compromise the integrity of the
crash site, including by refraining from destroying, moving, or disturbing wreckage,
equipment, debris, personal belongings, or remains, and immediately provide safe,
secure, full and unrestricted access to the site and surrounding area for the
appropriate investigating authorities, the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission and
representatives of other relevant international organizations according to ICAO and
other established procedures;
7. Demands that all military activities, including by armed groups, be
immediately ceased in the immediate area surrounding the crash site to allow for
security and safety of the international investigation;
Meanwhile at July 25 the Dutch newspaper Telegraaf reports about plans of the Netherlands for sending commando troops to secure the site. This never happened and the Dutch government never confirmed plans to send troops.
Malaysia government negotiated with the rebels and because of that the black boxes were handed over. The Malaysia PM told on CNN how he personally negotiated with the rebels.
All the time there were no shellings, no granades and no shootings nearby. The Ukraine army was far away.
After the bodies were removed investigators wanted to enter the crash site. Both the Dutch and Australian Air Force flew in equipment to research the cause of the crash. Fighting then started. Many times it was not possible to enter the crash site. The OSCE had to negotitate with both rebels and Ukraine. Sometimes they managed to get access to the crash site.
The situation at July 21
Around 20-23 July heavy shelling occured at Donetsk. Rebel tanks in the city. Ukraine is intensifying its fights. Here a report by Wall Street Journal
At July 24 BBC reporter Fergal Keane reported on Twitter that the crash site was abandoned. No workers, no guard, just as TV crew.Australia had sent 50 police officers who are in London.
At July 25 all bodies which were found were back in the Netherlands. (NOS)
Also at July the parents of an Australian victim visited the crash site.
This page provides some information on the situation at July 27.
Ukraine Army passes a small village called Stozhkovo close to the crashsite.
There are reports on fighting near Shakhtersk, the 12th mine area.
The situation at July 28. Ukraine Army starts to fight in a westerly direction to get closer to the crashsite. Max Seddon is a well informed journalist. He writes in this post at Buzzfeed:
Thanks to a new Ukrainian offensive, the crash site is now inaccessible to international experts.
At July 30 Australian reporter Stephen McDonell explains on tv the situation. He clearly states the fighting has intensified. Ukraine forces believe the world is at their hands and want to force a way into the crash site.
At July 31, two weeks after the crash, investigators were able to work on the crash site for the first time (Telegraaf)
The New York Times reported on July 31:
Ukrainian officials said they had suspended offensive operations against the rebels to allow the monitors to reach the site safely. Commanders at Ukrainian military positions near the site confirmed that they had been ordered to halt their advance.
For a couple of days investigations in a limited area were possible. Many locations where debris were found were not accessible. Rebels did not allow access. The red parts on this map (toegang geweigerd) were not allowed to be entered by the investigation team. The map is part of a dedicated website of the Dutch government.
The green parts are searched. The orange parts are unsafe.
About 6 % of the total crash site has been investigated by the Dutch team during the 6 days of recovery of bodies. (RTL)
RTL reports on August 28 the investigation team was hindered by the rebels. Usage of additional sniffing dogs, drones and cranes to lift debris was not allowed. The team was intimidated by rebels carrying guns. If team members picked up objects from the ground, rebels sometimes requested to put those objects back (RTL nieuws)
This photo in this article shows a rebel with gun near investigators. I have also seen many photos with no rebel in the neighborhood.
Sniffing dogs were used at the crash site. Photo is taken from the OCSE website.
At August 6, PM Rutte of the Netherlands announced the team will stop investigating because the situation is too dangerous. (RTLnieuws)
At August 7 Ukraine government suspends ceasefire at MH17 crash site after recovery mission halted (Reuters)
At August 8 Kiev says the cease fire is still in force in the crash site area. (Reuters)
At August 8 The UN Security Council failed to adopt a resolution on reinstating the ceasefire at the site of the Malaysian Airlines plane crash in eastern Ukraine after Russia’s draft was blocked by Western states.
This is a report by a OSCE member who visited the crash site on August 10. I am not sure of this is a fake story or not,
At August 14 7 Russian tanks are seen driving through Torez, (Ukraine@war)
Then many days of silence. No reporters at the crashsite.
At August 20 it was announced researchers would return to crash site if situation improves. (International Business Times)
At August 21 the OSCE went to the city Snizhne. A car was hit by grad mortars.
End of August there was a lot of shelling at the crash site according the Russian Ministry of Defense. The Russians accuse the Ukraine Army of destroying evidence.
However at November 16 this blogpost was published on a Pro Ukraine website Ukraine@war. It uses Google Earth photos of September14. It clearly shows burned spots and some trenches.
At September 5 a ceasefire was announced. This was a direct result of the talks between Russia and Ukraine in Belarus. (news.com.au and RT)
At September 10 there was still hope entry of crash site would be possible when ceasefire started (source)
The situation at September 6. Mapes are taken from this Ukraine source
According this article at September 5 there was heavy shelling.
Between September 7 and September 11 several reporters visited the crashsite. For instance Rudy Bouma, Gert Jan Dennekamp, Alec Luhn, Paul Sonne
Paul Son publishes an article in Wall Street Journal describing heavy damage to churches and houses near the crash site.
At September 9 , several journalists were trapped in an artillery shootout between the cities of Khartsyzk and Makiivka to the east of Donetsk, on the way back from the crash site, and were forced to wait in a line of cars as shells whistled overhead. (Foreignpolicy.com)
At September 9 German reporter Katrin Eigendorf of channel ZDF was at the crashsite.
At September 11 Dutch defense minister reports crash site still unsafe.
Also at September 11 a journalist seems to have visited the site.
September 12 30 extra investigators depart to Ukraine so they are ready to start investigations as soon as crash site is safe. (BNR)
The situation at September 12 at 1200
September 13 NOS reporter Rudy Bouma was at the crash site. There was heavy shelling between rebels and Ukraine army. This was the first fighting since the ceasefire (NOS)
On Twitter he reports:
Bij het grootste deel van de crashsite is het rustig, maar in de verte klinken beschietingen
the major part of the crashsite is quiet, however in the distance are shellings heard.
Also at September 14 OSCE visited the western part of the crash site. Here is the report. A OSCE car was hit by mortars. An interesting part of the report is this
Due to the proximity of the checkpoint and incoming fire, the SMM moved away on the road towards Maloorlivka in order to reach Kirovske, to the south, where the SMM was told it would be escorted by “DPR” representatives to Donetsk through Shakhtarsk. While en route to the “DPR” checkpoint, the SMM observed impacts close to the SMM vehicles, incoming from the north, and aimed at “DPR” positions. The SMM decided to pass through the first “DPR” checkpoint located at the entrance of Kirovske. The SMM could not use the parallel road as the SMM observed that this path was mined.
Both show that north of where the OSCE was hit by mortars, Ukraine Army had positions. So the shooting at OSCE was likely done by Ukraine troops.
At September 18 someone made a video of 48 minutes at the crash site. Guided by someone of the rebels he was able to film. No fighting heard in the neighborhod.
A large rocket which entered the ground is clearly seen. So there has been heavy fighting in the past.
See the video here.
Vrije Tribune has an overview of the situation since July 17. The Dutch blog describes why geo politics are far more important than finding the truth. When winter comes in it will be impossible to do research. After winter evidence is likely to be too much contaminated.
At September 19 the Netherlands government announces the 30 extra investigators who are in Ukraine waiting to access the crash site are being flown back to the Netherlands. The crashsite is too dangerous to enter. (NRC.nl)
The situation on September 19 at 12:00
OSCE sents a Tweet saying “We’ve now 80 monitors in the region, with many more to come”
Russia reports that Dutch investigators have not been at the crash site and that the preliminary report is too vague and based on photos. A railroad has been repaired to enable transportation of debris. (TASS)
This video shows heavy fighting in the area of the crash site near Nikishino. It is between September 22-26
At September 27 Malaysian minister of Transport said his country would ask the United Nations to send peacekeeping forces to secure the crashsite. However the next day it seemed he should not have said that. Dutch government said Malaysia, Australia and the Netherlands will not ask UN for troops
Around end of September heavy fighting around the airport of Donetsk. Ukraine forces trying to get access to airport. Donetsk still in hands of rebels. (NOS)
At October 1 OCSE mission reported:
The SMM visited the village of Hrabove (70km east of Donetsk) in order to assess the awareness of the local authorities and the local population about the procedures related to the recovery of items and other personal belongings of the passengers of the MH17 plane. In Hrabove and its surroundings, as well as in Rozsypne, the SMM observed leaflets and posters informing the public about the recovery procedure of personal belongings and/or other remains. These were displayed in visible places such as post offices, shops, bus stops, pharmacies, schools, administration offices, churches, checkpoints and neighbourhoods, including information boards. The SMM moved towards Petropavlivka (89km north-east of Donetsk), but was unable to continue further due to security concerns.
At Oktober still heavy fighting around Donetsk. 6 civilians killed at a busstop.
The situation at October 3. Source
At October 5 the site is visited by TASS correspondent Valentin Sprinchak. Site of Boeing crash near Donetsk unguarded, access is free (TASS)
At October 10, 7 bodies of Ukraine paratroopers were found in Shahtersk
was in the area.A photo report of NOS reporter Gert-Jan Denekamp can be seen here.
He also made two videos (video 1) and video 2. Also at October 16 Kini TV published a video with footage taken at the crash site. The video shows civilians walking at the site, a motorcycle passing by.
Oktober 19 the Dutch NOS showed an item about a Dutch relative of a MH17 victim. He went to the crash site to find personal belongings. He now understands it is too dangerous to do investigation.NOS reports two of the three villages are pretty quiet. However at Petropavlovka there is still fighting and shelling. Civilians had to stay in the bombshelter for three hours.Accordings NOS shootings were reported in the village of Hrabove (Ukrainian: Грабове; Russian: Грабово, Grabovo, also spelled Grabove
25-10-2014 A large crater left by a rocket is seen on the #mh17 crash site in Grabovo. Multiple explosions were heard during the morning.
Pierre Crom also saw human remains at the site like human bones. See his Tweet
Many fragments of human bones sometimes up to 20cm on the #mh17 crash site
At October 24 this video wasd published at Youtube. A young lady walks around the crash site. It certainly is a recent video .
On October 31 a small Dutch mission with local SES and OVSE was able to visit the crash site. Human remains were collected at the burn site.
At November 4 again Dutch people and SES were able to visit the crash site. They found personal belongings and human remains (Telegraaf)
Also on November 5 the team found personal belongings and human remains
at November 6 Dutch experts were on the site to judge which debris are transported to the Netherlands for reconstruction of the aircraft. ( NOS)
At November 10 RTL reporter Jeroen Akkermans visits the crash site. It is all quiet. Villager tell that it has been quiet for weeks. At Donetsk there are heavy fightings and at 30 km there are some shots fired once in a while. Live goes on, there is a market and busses drive.
At November 11 the Dutch mission was at the crash site. However without cranes and trucks so recovery of wreckage was not possible. The area was quiet.
At November 12 the Dutch mission again is at the crash site. Now a crane has been supplied by the local SES. Photo by Jeroen Akkersmans.
At November 16 finally the recovery of the wreckage started.
At November 17,18 and 19 the recovery continued. No shooting, situation was safe.
At November 26 Dutch reporter Harold Doornbos visited the crash site. There were still some smaller debris. First snow was falling.