KUALA LUMPUR - Intense fighting in the vicinity of the MH17 crash site in eastern Ukraine may foil a planned final sweep of the area by international investigators next week.
Ukraine Ambassador to Malaysia Ihor V. Humenyyi said a major offensive was currently under way by pro-Russian rebels seeking to capture the city of Debal'tseve, about 40km from the crash site.
"This may make it impossible for the international team to return next week," he said.
Humenyyi said there were efforts by the international community to secure another ceasefire, which could facilitate the operation.
The Dutch security and justice ministry said in a statement on Jan 24 that a small team, including defence ministry personnel, would attempt to return to the crash site.
Three Dutch nationals on board the Malaysia Airlines flight, which crashed on July 17 last year, are still missing.
The planned operation next week is an attempt to recover more remains and other personal belongings.
Humenyyi added that the operation was not critical to the investigations into the cause of the crash, which claimed the lives of 298.
Humenyyi thanked Malaysia for using its position as a member of the UN Security Council to call for an end to hostilities and indiscriminate killing of civilians.
"We also appreciate the condemnation of any threat against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine," he said.