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MH17 Victims' Remains Arrive in Netherlands

  • VOA News

A Dutch military transport plane carrying the first 16 coffins with the remains of some victims of the downed Malaysian airliner has landed in the Netherlands.

The Dutch government declared a day of national mourning as the country prepared for the arrival of the first bodies, flown out of the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv earlier Wednesday. The crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on Thursday killed all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch citizens.

Honorary guards placed wooden coffins on the plane after a short and somber ceremony held by the Ukraine government on the tarmac before the plane took off.

At the ceremony, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman said the downing of the plane was an "inhumane terrorist act" carried out with help from Russia.

Kyiv will do everything in its power to bring those guilty to justice, he added.

A Canadian military transport plane is due to leave Kharkiv with 24 more coffins later on Wednesday.

A train carrying bodies and flight data recorders collected from the crash site by pro-Russian rebels arrived on Tuesday in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv.

There was confusion about how many corpses were on the train which arrived in Kharkiv from rebel controlled territory on Tuesday.

The separatists accused of downing the plane said Monday that 282 bodies and the parts of 16 others were aboard the train.

But Dutch forensics team leader Jan Tuinder, who met the train in Kharkiv, said the refrigerated rail cars contained only 200 bodies.

Dutch Safety Board takes over crash investigation

The Dutch Safety Board said on Wednesday it had taken charge of an international investigation into the crash last week in Ukraine of a Malaysian airliner in which 298 people died, the majority from the Netherlands.

In a statement, the authority said it would coordinate a team of 24 investigators from Ukraine, Malaysia, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia and the International Civil Aviation Organization. It said four Dutch investigators were operating in Ukraine.

The authority said it would look at whether the Boeing 777's black box flight data recorders had been tampered with. It said it would also conduct separate investigations into the decision-making processes behind flight routes and the availability of passenger lists.

2 Ukrainian Jets Downed

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian defense ministry says two of its military fighter jets have been shot down in eastern Ukraine.

A spokesman for the defense ministry said Wednesday that the planes were shot down in Savur Mogila, a burial mound in the Shaktersky region where a memorial marks ambushes by the Soviet army on occupying Nazis during World War II. No details were known about the pilots of the planes.

Igor Strelkov, who is now in charge of the rebel ranks in the eastern city of Donetsk, said the separatists had brought down one plane and that the pilot had ejected. He gave no further details.

Fierce fighting raged near the rebels' two main centers in Donetsk and nearby Luhansk, where they have been pushed back by Ukrainian government forces, who have taken control of villages and suburbs around the cities.

Crash site

Also Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it is still unclear how many bodies have been recovered from the crash site and vowed to bring all the remains of Australian victims back home.

"Based on early inspection of the carriages in Kharkiv, we just don't know how many bodies we have," Abbott said. "It is quite possible that many bodies are still out there in the open, in the European summer, subject to interference, and subject to the ravages of heat and animals. That is the predicament in which we find ourselves."

"It has been up till now quite unprofessional. And as long as it is possible that there are any Australian remains out there, we owe it to the families to do our utmost, to do our absolute utmost to recover them," he added.

(A complete list of the passsengers aboard MH17)

Meanwhile, Britain said it has taken delivery of two flight data recorders from the flight.

Coffins containing remains of some of the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17 are placed on the tarmac before being loaded onto a transport plane heading toward the Netherlands, at the airport in Kharkiv, Ukraine, July 23, 2014.

Coffins containing remains of some of the victims of Malaysia Airlines MH17 are placed on the tarmac before being loaded onto a transport plane heading toward the Netherlands, at the airport in Kharkiv, Ukraine, July 23, 2014.

The European Union on Tuesday imposed sanctions against more Russian individuals but refrained from targeting entire sectors of the Russian economy while waiting for clearer evidence of Moscow's role in the disaster.

Responsibility

Senior U.S. intelligence officials said Tuesday that Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led crash, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

In the past five days, the United States, Ukraine and a host of European governments have accused Moscow of supplying the missile battery that downed the plane.

Authorities also have accused separatists of moving that missile battery back into Russian territory after the plane was shot down.

In Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Tuesday to do everything in his power to influence separatists controlling the crash site to allow a full investigation into the disaster. But he said such efforts would be inadequate without additional pressure on Kyiv to end the hostilities.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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