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Dutch visit previously inaccessible MH17 Ukraine crash site

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Dutch experts returned to war-ravaged Ukraine on Friday to probe the MH17 crash site, including visiting a location previously considered unsafe because of fighting with pro-Russian separatists.

[THE HAGUE] Dutch experts returned to war-ravaged Ukraine on Friday to probe the MH17 crash site, including visiting a location previously considered unsafe because of fighting with pro-Russian separatists.

"A 12-person team consisting of defence and police officers has gone to Ukraine and will remain in the area until March 28," the Dutch justice ministry said in a statement.

The team, accompanied by a Dutch Safety Board (OVV) official, "will assess the situation at so-called 'burned sites' with the aim of putting together a (full-blown) mission in April", it said.

Burned sites refer to places where flaming wreckage from the Malaysia Airlines 777 fell after it was shot down on July 17, killing all 298 people on board, most of them Dutch.

The Netherlands has been charged with investigating the cause of the incident and identifying the dead.

Kiev and the West have claimed that the airliner was shot down in the conflict-torn area by separatist fighters using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia. Moscow denies the charges, pointing the finger at Kiev.

The region to be investigated "includes an area northwest of the town of Petropavlivka, which a Dutch team could not visit previously because of the security situation", the Dutch justice ministry said.

It added that Petropavlivka's mayor had collected pieces of wreckage which will be picked up and taken to the city of Kharkiv.

Petropavlivka is around 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) west of Grabovo, the site where the main pieces of wreckage fell and the previous focus of the investigation.

Parts of the aircraft have been returned to the Netherlands where bereaved families earlier this month viewed the wreckage at the southern Gilze-Rijen airbase.

A Dutch television station on Thursday claimed it had proof that the Boeing 777 was shot down by a BUK missile based on an independent analysis of metal fragments one of its journalists removed from the crash site.

The Dutch Safety Board however issued a statement saying there was nothing to prove that the fragment came from the missile that brought the plane down, and that its own conclusions would be confirmed by "multiple sources and not only from fragments".

Kiev in February signed a shaky peace deal with separatists in its troubled rebel-held east, where months of fighting have left more than 6,000 people dead.

AFP