DONETSK, Ukraine — International observers turned back Wednesday after making another attempt to reach the site where Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 went down in eastern Ukraine, and a government official said the area near the zone had been mined by pro-Russian separatists who control it.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe set out in two vehicles, without frustrated crash investigators from the Netherlands who have been trying to reach the site for four days.
The observers headed back to the city of Donetsk after discussions with rebels on the city's outskirts not long after starting what would have been a two-hour journey to the site.
That means that almost two weeks after the July 17 disaster, safety concerns and hindrance from the separatists who control the area are still obstructing access to the site. Foreign governments whose citizens died have complained the site is still not secured and some human remains have not been recovered. International observers say wreckage has been cut, moved or otherwise tampered with.
Government security spokesman Andriy Lysenko added to those concerns Wednesday by saying separatists "have mined the approaches to this area. This makes the work of the international experts impossible."
Lysenko was asked at a briefing about concerns that Ukrainian efforts to win back territory were increasing fighting in the area and slowing access. He said that Ukrainian troops weren't conducting operations against separatists near the site, but were trying to cut off their supply lines to force them to leave the area.
The observers did not immediately tell journalists accompanying them what specific issue made them turned back.