MH17 wreckage arrives at Dutch base

[GILZE-RIJEN AIRBASE] A convoy carrying wreckage from Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrived at a Dutch airbase on Tuesday where it will be pieced together as part of a probe into its shooting down over Ukraine.

Around 50 relatives of some of the 298 people killed when the plane was blown out of the sky in July were allowed into the Gilze-Rijen base for the arrival, said Sara Vernooij of the Dutch Safety Board (OVV), which is leading the probe into the crash.

The eight-truck convoy began its long journey from Ukraine last week, crossing into The Netherlands from Germany early Tuesday, travelling under police escort to the airbase in the southern Netherlands.

Dutch authorities are reconstructing part of the aircraft as they seek to establish exactly what brought the plane down.

Ukraine and the West accuse Russia of supplying pro-Kremlin insurgents with the missile that downed the jet. But Moscow and the separatists deny responsibility and have instead pointed the finger at Kiev.

The Dutch are leading international efforts towards a criminal prosecution, if the culprits can be identified.

"It will take several months before we have a reconstruction of parts of the aircraft," said OVV chief Tjibbe Joustra.

The job is complicated by the fact that parts of the aircraft were destroyed by fire at the crash site and others were missing, he said.

Dutch nationals made up two-thirds of those killed when the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17 over rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.

A Dutch-led investigation team has so far identified 292 of the dead, but six victims remained unidentified as recovery work at the crash site shut down for the winter.

The wreckage will be photographed, scanned and categorised before being reconstructed in a hangar.

"What we truly hope is that we have another (piece of) proof of what has happened, our report aims to reconstruct what has happened," said Joustra.

The reconstruction will be closed to the public, although next of kin will be allowed to view it if they wish.

A preliminary report in September, which apportioned no blame, said the plane "broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside".


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