The waiting game in east Ukraine

International inspectors sit outside at a hotel in Kharkiv, Ukraine, waiting for marching orders to try and reach the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash site, July 28, 2014. CBS/Cami McCormick

KHARKIV, Ukraine -- While Malaysian, Dutch and Australian teams await orders to move to the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash scene, many of them are spending their time at hotels in Kharkiv, more than three hours to the north, without much to do.

Some sit outside a small hotel, staring at their smartphones and drinking tea. The days are sunny and hot. At dinner time, some Malaysian crews make their way on foot, leisurely, to nearby restaurants. No one seems in a hurry. If they're frustrated, it's not visible.

When word comes that they should move, there's a sense of anticipation. Last Saturday, a Malaysian team of about 10 dressed in black and outfitted in flak jackets, headed out just before midnight with British security guards.

They rushed to the front desk of the hotel, hurriedly checking out. They snapped "selfies" as they boarded their white buses, but their enthusiasm won't have carried them far down the road. They haven't returned, but they definitely didn't make it as far as the sprawling crash site.

Thus far, only a small team of aviation experts have reached the scene -- three men from Malaysia Airlines -- to try and inspect and document acres and acres of farmland strewn with debris and still, a week and a half after the shootdown, human remains.

For days, amid negotiations with both the Ukrainian government and rebel commanders who control the area, teams have attempted to set off for the crash site. Tuesday, the third false-start in as many days was confirmed by the Dutch Justice Ministry.

"There is currently too much fighting along the route to the crash site," the Ministry said in a brief statement.

And so the teams remain stuck in Kharkiv, with hours of boredom to fill.

Some make the most of the wait by working. One trio of Western experts spent much of Monday on their laptop computers, separated from the others at an outdoor cafe.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has had a team at the crash site for days, has said that while the area remains off-limits for newcomers, teams were to spend their time planning.

That is what they appeared to be doing. But that planning goes on with the assumption they will eventually reach the crash site.

The remains and wreckage are still un-protected, baking in the summer sun.

It's unclear what the teams here will find, or what the conditions on the ground might be, if and when they are able to make the three-hour drive south.

With the fighting intensifying, they appear to be going nowhere anytime soon.

  • Cami McCormick

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