Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte said on Wednesday his country was suspending its investigative efforts in the area in eastern Ukraine where a commercial airliner was shot down three weeks ago, killing all nearly three hundred passengers and crew on board.
Rutte told reporters in The Hague the situation was too dangerous for forensic experts to carry on their investigation. “We did what we could under the circumstances,” he said. “Everyone will agree with use that we shouldn’t expose our people to unnecessary risks.”
A small team of Dutch investigators will remain in Ukraine, Rutte said, to receive remains or belongings found near the crash site by locals.
The Netherlands, which lost 193 nationals when a Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down near Ukraine’s border with Russia, had taken the lead in an international investigation into the plane crash, sending forensic experts and armed military police to the country.
Australia, which lost 27 nationals in the crash, and Malaysia, which lost 43 citizens, also sent security personnel.
While Ukraine’s government had promised to fully cooperate with the investigation, it later launched an offensive in the vicinity of the crash site, complicating the investigation.
Rebels, who likely brought down the airliner, mistaking it for an Ukrainian military plane, ransacked the crash site and prevented monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe from inspecting the area.
Most human remains and belongings have likely been airlifted to the Netherlands but it is still unclear if all bodies have in fact been recovered. Within three weeks, DNA research should have made clear if all victims are accounted for, Rutte said.