KIEV, Ukraine — An international team of investigators abandoned efforts to reach the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine for a fourth day Wednesday because of heavy fighting, and a Ukrainian official said approaches to the area have been mined.
Military spokesman Andriy Lysenko predicted that sometime "soon," the Ukrainian army would oust the pro-Russian separatist rebels who control the fields and towns where the debris is scattered. But even then, he said, investigators will not be able to visit the site until the mines, which he said have been laid by rebels, can be cleared.
Nearly two weeks after the airliner was shot down by a missile apparently fired from separatist territory, a sense of urgency to get a team of forensics experts to the wreckage, where human remains and plane parts are unguarded, keeps butting up against the dangers of a war zone. The plane was carrying 298 passengers and crew en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. More than 200 sets of remains have been transferred to the Netherlands for processing and identification, but dozens of others are thought to be unaccounted for.
Meanwhile, Russia reacted sharply Wednesday to new sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union, professing bafflement at President Barack Obama's accusation that it has not been cooperating with the international investigation of the Malaysian plane crash.
And Moscow's ambassador to the European Union, Vladimir Chizhov, said Europe would suffer more from the new sanctions than Russia.