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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Australia Seeks to Secure MH17 Crash Site in Ukraine

by VOA News July 24, 2014

Australia has sent 50 police officers to London in anticipation of deploying them to eastern Ukraine to secure the Malaysian plane crash site as part of a proposed international team.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said foreign ministers from Australia and The Netherlands will go to Kyiv to iron out the details of deploying such a team, under U.N. authority, to secure the crash site in rebel-held east Ukraine.

Meanwhile, two more planes are due to take off from Ukraine for the Netherlands, carrying dozens more victims of the shootdown of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 last week. All 298 people on board were killed.

Who downed MH17?

Earlier Thursday, Russia called on the United States to prove that the passenger jet was shot down by an SA-11 surface-to-air missile fired by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov asked the U.S. to produce proof that it has technical data and satellite photos to back the accusation.

U.S. intelligence analysts have concluded that a Russian SA-11 'Buk' missile downed the aircraft and that ill-trained rebels likely fired the missile believing the aircraft was Ukrainian.

Black boxes intact

Meanwhile, investigators have found no evidence that either of the plane's two black boxes were tampered with, the Dutch Safety Board, which is coordinating the probe, said.

In a statement Thursday, the Board said the data from the Boeing 777's flight data recorder had been successfully downloaded by investigators at Britain's Air Accident Investigation Branch.

World leaders had expressed concern that the black boxes, which could contain information critical for reconstructing what brought down the airliner, may have been tampered with by rebels controlling the region in which the aircraft crashed last week.

Long wait for Malaysian remains

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday it might take "weeks or months" before remains of his compatriots who perished in the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine can be brought home.

Malaysia, a majority Muslim country, had initially sought to have the remains returned by July 28 for Hari Raya, also known as Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.

Forty-three Malaysians died aboard flight MH17 operating from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, including 15 crew.

"We cannot avoid a very painstaking process. This is both the technical requirement and the legal requirement," Najib told reporters after signing a condolences book at the Dutch Embassy.

"Therefore it is highly unlikely that the bodies can be brought back in time for Hari Raya."

Identification process

Two aircraft carrying remains of some of the passengers arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday, where experts will work to identify them with DNA samples collected from relatives. The process could take months.

The remains of the victims will be brought over the next few days to a military base in the Dutch town of Hilversum.

Tens of thousands of mourners in the Netherlands held memorial services and ceremonies, as the first bodies from Flight MH17 arrived in the country on Wednesday. Of the victims, 193 were Dutch.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AP.

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