Planes carry bodies to Netherlands
KHARKIV, Ukraine – Two more military aircraft carrying remains of victims from the Malaysian plane disaster arrived in the Netherlands on Thursday, while Australian and Dutch diplomats joined to promote a plan for a U.N. team to secure the crash site which has been controlled by pro-Russian rebels.
Human remains continue to be found a full week after the plane went down – underlining concerns about the halting and chaotic recovery effort at the sprawling site spread across farmland in eastern Ukraine. Armed separatists control the area and have hindered access by investigators.
All 298 people aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 – most of them Dutch citizens – were killed when the plane was shot down on July 17. U.S. officials say the Boeing 777 was probably shot down by a missile from territory held by pro-Russian rebels, likely by accident.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who said 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. Abbott said Thursday he had dispatched 50 police officers to London to be ready to join any organization which may result.
Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was traveling with her Dutch counterpart Frans Timmermans to Kiev to seek an agreement with the Ukraine government to allow international police to secure the wreckage, Abbott said.
Details including which countries would contribute and whether officers would be armed and protected by international troops were yet to be agreed, Abbott said.
International experts found more remains still at the crash site both Wednesday and Thursday, Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told reporters in Donetsk on Thursday. OSCE observers, sent to monitor the conflict, escorted a delegation from Australia to examine the wreckage Thursday for the first time. More Australian specialists are expected to join them Friday, Bociurkiw said.
On Monday, the U.N. 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 remains arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday and were met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and hundreds of relatives. The two planes Thursday brought a total of 74 more coffins back to the Netherlands, said government spokesman Lodewijk Hekking.