Australia, Ukraine, Netherlands Mark Anniversary Of MH17 Airline Tragedy
July 17, 2015
Memorial services were being held in Ukraine, Australia, and the Netherlands on July 17 to mark the first anniversary of the MH17 airline disaster that killed 298 people.
Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was carrying 193 Dutch citizens, 43 Malaysians, 38 Australian citizens and residents, 12 Indonesians, and 10 Britons when it was shot down near the village of Hrabove in eastern Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists bused in about 200 Ukrainian villagers from parts of eastern Ukraine for a gathering at the village of Hrabov.
The group marched in a procession from the village to a field that, a year ago, had been scattered with the remains and personal belongings of the MH17 victims.
Many of those at the crash site waved separatists flags and carried banners accusing Ukrainian government forces of being responsible for shooting down the plane.
Donetsk separatist leader Alexandre Zakharchenko told the crowd: "We are ready to provide all the help necessary to those who can finally prove the criminal Ukrainian regime's responsibility for this tragedy.'
But the Kremlin continues to reject calls for a United Nations tribunal that would put on trial any suspects identified by a Dutch-led investigation team that is expected to release its definitive final report in early October.
Ukraine, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, and the Netherlands have all called on the UN Security Council to found the international criminal tribunal.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose country wields veto power on the Security Council, told Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte on July 16 that setting up the UN tribunal to prosecute the suspects would be 'premature' and 'counterproductive.'
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said in a statement on July 17 that 'Those directly or indirectly responsible for the downing of MH17 must be held accountable and brought to justice in accordance with UN Security resolution 2166.'
Mogherini said the EU and its member states fully support 'the ongoing efforts to establish a binding and credible prosecution mechanism.'
According to leaks from a draft investigative report, the Dutch-led team has found evidence suggests the plane was brought down by a Russian surface-to-air missile that likely was fired by pro-Russian separatists.
U.S. officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence have said there is a 'solid case' that the plane was brought down by a Russian SA-11 missile, also known as a Buk missile.
They say the missile was fired from separatist-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine under 'conditions the Russians helped create.'
In Kyiv on July 17, embassies of countries whose citizens were killed in the tragedy planned small ceremonies, and no formal events were organized by foreign governments in eastern Ukraine.
Kyiv residents also laid flowers on the steps of the Dutch Embassy in the Ukrainian capital.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was to attend an organ concert in Kyiv later on July 17 that was organized by the Dutch and Austrian governments.
Poroshenko said in a July 17 video message posted on his official website that 'the high-tech weapons used to down the plane' could only have come from Russia.
Poroshenko also said the people of Ukraine took the crash as their own personal tragedy, and that the "crime poses a threat to the entire international community."
He vowed that those responsible for the tragedy would be punished, saying 'murderers must know that the punishment can't be avoided.'
In Australia on July 17, Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled a plaque in the gardens of Parliament House in Canberra with the names of the Australian citizens and residents who were killed.
The plaque, set in soil brought back from the crash site by an Australian police officer, says, 'In memory of the lives of those who called Australia home, lost in the downing of Flight MH17 on 17 July 2014.'
At a national service held inside the parliament building's Great Hall, Abbott said Australians owed it to the dead to bring the guilty to justice.
Of the victims, Abbott said: 'Their passing leaves a void that can never be filled and a pain that still throbs.'
In the Dutch town of Nieuwegein near Utrecht, relatives of victims were gathering on the afternoon of July 17 at a memorial ceremony they organized themselves that was to feature music, dance, and the reading out the names of all 193 Dutch citizens who were killed.
Malaysia held a memorial service on July 11 because the anniversary comes on a holiday marking the end of Ramadan.
In Britain, the online investigative journalism website Bellingcat created a special page called @mh17live that is reenacting the social-media reaction to the MH17 tragedy.
On the morning of July 17, the website reproduced year-old social-media posts from eastern Ukraine by people who were tracking the movement of a Russian BUK missile launcher hours before the MH17 was shot down and in the hours after the crash.
Later in the afternoon, the webpage was reposting photographs of the airliner and selfies that had been shot by passengers aboard the ill-fated flight just before it took off.
At 3:20 p.m. local time, the webpage reposted the Tweets and social media messages of local residents who heard the downing of MH17, as well as transcripts of intercepted radio communications between rebel fighters and commanders.
With reporting by RFE/RL's Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, Reuters, AP, AFP, BBC, Interfax, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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