KIEV - A plane carrying remains of victims from the downed MH17 flight in eastern Ukraine flew back to the Netherlands on Monday as Malaysian experts joined the international probe at the crash site.
Ukraine's government said the plane was taking the latest remains found by the search operation, as well as DNA and belongings that had been kept in the rebel-held city of Donetsk for some time.
Before Monday's flight, 227 coffins had been taken to the Netherlands - which suffered the most casualties in the July 17 crash - for the painstaking identification process.
But Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the Dutch police mission in Ukraine said Sunday: "We expect that there will be more flights to the Netherlands in the near future." A total of 298 passengers and crew were killed when the Malaysia Airlines jet - flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur - was blown out of the sky almost three weeks ago.
The probe into the crash - the second plane disaster involving Malaysia Airlines this year - has been repeatedly delayed because of fighting in the region between government forces and pro-Moscow separatist fighters.
The United States says insurgents shot down the plane with a surface-to-air missile likely supplied by Russia, but Moscow and the rebels blame the Ukrainian military.
On Monday, Malaysian experts joined Dutch and Australian police for the first time as they continued combing the area for traces of the victims, according to a statement from the Dutch security and justice ministry.
The experts were briefly prevented from accessing the rebel-held site but eventually let through, according to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which has been monitoring the situation in Ukraine and has monitors accompanying the experts.
"Work has resumed at the MH17 crash site by 100-plus experts," it tweeted Monday afternoon. Sniffer dogs were accompanying the experts, it had said.
In all, 124 experts were present at the scene and "planned to explore two fields west of the crash site," the government in Kiev said in separate statement.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai vowed that arrangements to repatriate the bodies of its citizens killed in the crash would be made "once bodies have been identified and the necessary forensic work completed".
"Efforts to locate and identify victims of the MH17 tragedy continue," he added, noting that a national day of mourning would be organised once all remains of the Malaysian victims have returned home.