Local emergency workers in eastern Ukraine have begun collecting wreckage from downed flight MH17 for transport to the Netherlands. Dutch investigators hope it will help to clarify the cause of the plane's crash.
Workers from the emergency ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic on Sunday began retrieving pieces of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from its crash site in eastern Ukraine.
Dutch inspectors commissioned local emergency services to carry out the work after deciding that the area, which is situated in a rebel-held conflict zone, posed too great a safety risk to their own staff.
"Today the recovery of wreckage from flight MH17 has started. The Dutch Safety board commissioned the recovery and transportation to the Netherlands of the wreckage as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash of flight MH17," the Dutch experts said in a statement.
They said the wreckage of the Boeing 777 would first be transported to the city of Kharkiv, which remains in Ukrainian government hands, before being flown to the Netherlands for examination.
Kyiv and the West accuse pro-Moscow separatist rebels of having shot down the plane on July 17 with a missile supplied by Russia. Both Moscow and the rebels deny this, instead blaming Ukrainian government forces for downing the aircraft, which was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when disaster struck.
Altogether, 298 passengers and crews died in the crash, among them 193 Dutch citizens. So far, the remains of 289 victims could be collected and identified.
Any further human remains found among the wreckage will also be recovered by the rescue team, the Dutch Safety Board said.
The Netherlands intends to reconstruct parts of the airliner in order to ascertain the precise cause of the disaster. The recovery of those parts of the wreckage deemed necessary for this purpose could take several days, the inspectors said.
As the recovery operation got under way, fighting between government forces and the rebels was continuing elsewhere in the region, with the Ukrainian military saying that six soldiers were injured during frequent mortar attacks overnight.
The attacks come despite a nominal ceasefire.
Over 4,100 people have been killed since the conflict in eastern Ukraine broke out in April. The crisis has brought relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War, with Kyiv and the West accusing Moscow of supporting the rebels.
tj/glb (AFP, Reuters)