Families view MH17 wreckage

Families view MH17 wreckage
Parts of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 at the crash site near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo), some 80 kms east of Donetsk.

GILZE-RIJEN AIRBASE, The Netherlands - The first batch of around 500 relatives of those killed in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine visited the wreckage at a Dutch airbase, investigators said.

The wreckage was brought to the Gilze-Rijen base in the southern Netherlands late last year as part of a probe into what exactly shot down the Boeing 777 in July, killing all 298 people on board.

Around two-thirds of those killed were Dutch, while citizens from a total of 11 countries died in the disaster.

Pieces of the plane's fuselage have been laid out in hangars at the base where they can be viewed by the bereaved until Saturday and by journalists on Tuesday.

Some 50 relatives saw the trucks carrying the wreckage arrive at the base in December, but this was the first time they could see the aircraft parts up close.

"There are about 500 people coming, not only from the Netherlands but also from other countries," said Sara Vernooij of the Dutch Safety Board (OVV).

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.

International investigators from Ukraine, Malaysia, Australia, United States, Britain and Russia have already carried out a preliminary investigation of the wreckage, the OVV said.

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