Four months after the tragic downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, the wreckage is finally being recovered by Ukrainian emergency services. The remains of the aircraft and its 298 passengers remain largely untouched in the war torn rebel area of Eastern Ukraine, and recovery efforts have been largely delayed due to the continuing violence and conflict between pro-Russian and Ukrainian forces. Though two thirds of the victims of MH17 were Dutch nationals, the situation remains too dangerous for Dutch officials to enter independently, and as such, they are working closely with local services in hopes of recovering human remains and belongings.
In a statement, Dutch officials noted,
Today the recovery of wreckage from flight MH17 has started. The Dutch Safety Board commissioned the recovery and transportation to the Netherlands of the wreckage as part of the investigation into the cause of the crash of flight MH17.
The flight was downed on July 17 of this year en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur. All 298 of those on board perished in the crash, and in the months since the tragedy, Ukraine and Russia has traded blows on responsibility. Still, there is no official word on the cause of the plane's downing, though preliminary reports suggest that "high-energy objects" were to blame. Dutch officials, who have yet to visit the site in person, have become increasingly frustrated by the continued forestalling of the process.
As the recovery process began in the early morning hours, the BBC reports sightings of cranes and aid workers attempting to make their way through the mangled wreckage of the flight. Dutch Safety Board spokesman Wim van der Weegen told NBC News, "We've got a specific number of items we would like to recover," including certain parts of the aircraft that will be used to recreate the crash scenario, and perhaps shed light on the cause of the disaster. According to reports, the remains of the flight will be transported out of the rebel-controlled crash site to the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, where further analysis of the materials will be conducted by Ukrainian and Dutch officials.
Already, the Associated Press reports that "more human remains had been discovered under the wreckage," and more are expected to be found throughout the excavation process. The crash site has been left without much security, and as a result, much of the original evidence from the plane has been tampered with. This, Ukrainian and Dutch officials believe, has complicated the reconstruction process, and has also greatly delayed the recovery of both human and mechanical remains.
The Dutch government has faced growing pressure from victims' families for the frustrating slowness with which the investigation has proceeded. Since initial reports in September, little information has emerged about the tragedy, providing little relief for those affected. Security remains a key concern for the dozen or so Dutch officials who are on location, and according to official statements, their "security and other factors will be assessed daily."
At the recent G20 summit, much of the discussion centered around Russian President Putin's responsibility in the ordeal, with criticism coming from American, British and Canadian leaders. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose country hosted the summit, also demanded that Putin make an apology to the victims' families, as well as provide compensation.
Recently, tempers against the Russian leadership have flared once again, as Russian media "leaked" satellite photos of the last moments of MH17 that seem to suggest that the plane was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter jet. But soon thereafter, a number of experts expressed concerns about blatant inconsistencies in these new photos that contradict previously confirmed satellite imagery. The photos have now largely been dismissed as photoshopped fakes.
President Putin did little to assuage international concerns, as he made an abrupt departure from the G20 summit before its conclusion on Sunday. Citing lack of sleep as a reason for his quick exit, Putin told his host that he would require "four or five hours" of rest after his 18 hour flight before returning to running the country on Monday. it seems that Putin's rather tense exchanges with fellow world leaders also motivated his decision to leave. Following Putin's leave, Abbott noted, "I don’t agree, in fact I utterly deplore, what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. I demand Russia fully cooperates with the criminal investigation into the downing of MH17."
Putin, however, has maintained Russian innocence in the whole ordeal, and condemned Ukraine's handling of the situation. Said Putin, "I don’t understand why Kiev authorities are cutting off those territories with their own hands. Well one can understand – to save money. But it’s not the time or the case to save money on."
Government officials, friends and families of all those affected by the crash however, are now hopeful that the latest recovery process will finally shed some much needed light on the downing of flight MH17.
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