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Netherlands marks MH17 victims with memorial ceremony
[AMSTERDAM] The Netherlands was on Monday to hold a national memorial ceremony for the 298 people who died when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky over war-torn east Ukraine in July.
Flags flew at half mast across the country and at Dutch diplomatic missions abroad ahead of a commemoration in Amsterdam to be attended by 1,600 of the bereaved as well as King Willem Alexander, Queen Maxima and Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
The names of all those killed in the July 17 disaster, 193 of them Dutch, will be read out during the musical commemoration starting at 1200 GMT at Amsterdam's RAI arena and broadcast live on Dutch television and radio.
Four of the bereaved will speak, as will Rutte. There will also be a minute's silence in memory of the dead, many of them children setting off on school holiday on the doomed Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight.
Ambassadors from some of the 16 other countries that lost citizens in the disaster will also be attending.
Ukraine and the West say the Boeing 777 was shot down by separatist fighters using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia, but Moscow strongly denies the charges, pointing the finger at Kiev.
So far 289 victims have been identified among body parts recovered from the site by a team led by investigators from The Netherlands but Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders warned on Saturday that some remains may never be recovered.
Five more coffins of remains as well as personal effects flew to the Netherlands on Saturday, where they are to be identified.
Experts from The Netherlands have made four trips to the crash site since a fragile ceasefire deal was signed in early September between rebels and government forces.
The visits come after international investigators were forced to halt an initial probe at the site in August due to heavy fighting.