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. 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 to the Netherlands for identification.
Ukraine had 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 Thursday 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.
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.