MH17: Dutch return to site as search resumes

MH17: Dutch return to site as search resumes

THE HAGUE - Dutch officials on Monday returned to the crash site of Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH17 in Ukraine, where the search for remains and belongings resumed with the recovery of items from cuddly toys to photos, despite sporadic exchanges of fire.

The Dutch were part of an Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) team that has brokered a return to the place where the MAS Boeing 777 crashed in rebel-held territory on July 17.

All 298 people on board the flight were killed, two-thirds of them Dutch.

"Four Dutch nationals were at the disaster site, as part of an OSCE team," Justice Ministry spokesman Jean Fransman told AFP.

"Trucks are at the scene to take what's found somewhere before they're returned to the Netherlands," he said.

Members of Ukraine's State Emergency Services (SES) are conducting the search for body parts and possessions that resumed on Monday, he said.

"Some personal effects have already been collected by the local population," Fransman said.

Nevertheless the 40 SES members involved have already found a range of items including clothing, suitcases, photos, passports, jewellery and cuddly toys, he added.

Dutch forensic experts called off their search of the area in early August because of the ongoing fighting, with Prime Minister Mark Rutte lamenting the lack of access to the site.

A fragile truce has been agreed in the area, with Ukrainian and Russian officials trying to shore up the ceasefire.

Flight MH17 was shot down on July 17 while flying over insurgent-held territory in conflict-wracked eastern Ukraine.

The Netherlands is in charge of identifying the bodies and probing what caused the crash. A total of 272 of the dead have so far been identified.

The findings of an initial report by a Dutch-led team of air crash investigators appear to back up claims that the plane was hit by an anti-aircraft missile.

Kiev and the West have accused Moscow-backed separatists of shooting it down with a surface-to-air BUK missile supplied by Russia.

Moscow denies the charge and has pointed the finger at Kiev.

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