Dutch push ahead with investigations into Ukraine plane disaster despite lack of site access

Associated Press

Dutch officials said Monday they will push ahead with both an investigation into the cause of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 disaster and a criminal investigation into the persons responsible, despite not being able to access the site where the plane went down in eastern Ukraine.

Flight 17 was shot down July 17 above an area held by pro-Russia separatist rebels, killing all 298 aboard, most of them Dutch.

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An international mission to recover remains of the victims was called off last week due to danger from ongoing fighting in the region. But the Netherlands' top police commander Gerard Bouman told a parliamentary commission Monday he believes a search of the crash area conducted shortly after the disaster by 800 local Ukrainians was more effective than initial reports suggested.

"It is mine and our conviction...that we now have the majority of human remains and personal possessions here in the Netherlands," Bouman said.

Dutch forensic experts working on remains flown back to a military base in the Netherlands have so far identified 65 victims and are hoping DNA analysis can help unify and identify remains of most others that are spread across more than 500 separate dossiers.

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading an international investigation into the cause of the crash, said in a statement it won't "assign blame or responsibility" in its conclusions. It will release preliminary report by early September based on analysis of the plane's cockpit voice recorder, radar analysis and satellite photos.

The Netherlands' Safety and Anti-terrorism Coordinator Dick Schoof told the parliamentary commission that 200 Dutch police and 7 prosecutors are working on the criminal investigation.

But "all attention is on investigating," he said. Where and how any trial of those responsible could eventually be held "is now the subject of international diplomatic discussion," he said.