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Sunday 8 December 2019

Two planes arrive with MH17 bodies

Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane as the first bodies of those killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine arrive in the Netherlands (AP)
Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane as the first bodies of those killed in the Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine arrive in the Netherlands (AP)
A man walks past wreckage of the crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in the village of Petropavlivka, eastern Ukraine (AP)

Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster have arrived in the Netherlands, while Australian and Dutch diplomats promoted a plan for a UN team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 - most of them Dutch citizens - were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. US officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.

Australian PM Tony Abbott, who says he fears some remains will never be recovered unless security is tightened, has proposed a multinational force mounted by countries such as Australia, the Netherlands and Malaysia that lost citizens in the disaster.

To that end, Mr Abbott said he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organisation which may result.

Australia's foreign minister Julie Bishop was travelling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Mr Abbott said.

Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Mr Abbott said.

On Monday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution proposed by Australia demanding that rebels cooperate with an independent investigation and allow all remaining bodies to be recovered.

The first bodies arrived in the Netherlands yesterday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes today brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.

The Dutch investigators gave permission for what it called "local parties" to move wreckage at the site in order to recover remaining victims. Conditions at the site, spread across farm fields in open countryside, have made recovery and investigation a slow and sometimes chaotic process, with rebel gunmen controlling the area and at times hindering access.

Patricia Zorko, head of the National Police Unit that includes the Dutch national forensic team, said some 200 experts, including 80 from overseas, were working at a military barracks on the outskirts of the central city of Hilversum to identify the dead. Around the world some 1,000 people are involved in the process, which also includes gathering information from next of kin.

Staff will "examine the bodies, describe the bodies, take dental information, DNA and put all the information together in the computer and compare this information with the information they gathered from the families in the last days," police spokesman Ed Kraszewski said. "Then we have to see if there is a match."

Meanwhile, the Obama administration has accused Russia of firing artillery to hit Ukrainian military sites and planning to send pro-Russian separatists more lethal weaponry.

The State Department said the US has evidence that Russia is shelling Ukraine from sites inside Russia. Spokeswoman Marie Harf also said the US has evidence Russia intends to deliver "heavier and more powerful multiple rocket launchers" to separatists battling Ukrainian forces in the east of the country.

Ms Harf declined to provide details or elaborate on the evidence because she said she could not get into intelligence "source and methods".

The US has repeatedly accused Russia of stoking the Ukraine rebellion and alleges that Russia is ultimately responsible for last week's downing of the Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine.

PA Media

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