Malaysia jet victims' bodies arrive in Netherlands

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Malaysia jet victims' bodies arrive in Netherlands
A convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, drives from the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014, after a ceremony following the arrival of a Dutch Air Force C-130 Hercules plane and an Australian Royal Australian Air Force C17 transport plane with the first bodies of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP /REMKO DE WAAL ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
The convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrives at the Korporaal van Oudheusden Kazerne in front a crowd of people lined up along the road, on July 23, 2014 in Hilversum, the Netherlands. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands today, almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP / VINCENT JANNINK ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)
Mourners lay flowers at the entrance of the Korporaal van Oudheusdenkazerne, a military establishment where the bodies of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 will be examined and identified on July 23, 2014 in Hilversum. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO/ ANP/JEROEN JUMELET -NETHERLANDS OUT- (Photo credit should read JEROEN JUMELET/AFP/Getty Images)
King Willem-Alexander, second left, Queen Maxima, third left, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte, third right, observe a minute of silence during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
The convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 drives by a crowd of people lined up along the road, on July 23, 2014 near Hilversum, the Netherlands. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands today, almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP / VINCENT JANNINK ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read VINCENT JANNINK/AFP/Getty Images)
Ukrainian soldiers carry coffins with the remains of a victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash during a ceremony at the airport of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on July 23, 2014. The first plane carrying bodies from downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 left eastern Ukraine for the Netherlands on July 23 following a sombre ceremony. The Dutch military aircraft took off from the airport in the government-controlled city of Kharkiv bound for Eindhoven after the first group of victims' remains were loaded onto the plane in wooden coffins. AFP PHOTO/ GENYA SAVILOV (Photo credit should read GENYA SAVILOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Pallbearers carry a coffin out of a military transport plane during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies are to be taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
An aerial view taken on July 23, 2014 shows people standing on the side of the road as the convoy of hearses carrying the bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is on its way to Hilversum where the bodies will be examined. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO/ANP/JERRY LAMPEN netherlands out (Photo credit should read JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Stewards and stewardesses hold a minute's silence at Schiphol Airport on July 23, 2014, to commemorate the victims of the air crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on July 23 almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, with grieving relatives and the king and queen solemnly receiving the as yet unidentified victims. AFP PHOTO / ANP / OLAF KRAAK ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read OLAF KRAAK/AFP/Getty Images)
The convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 drive near Hilversumafter leaving the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014, following a ceremony following the arrival of a Dutch Air Force C-130 Hercules plane and an Australian Royal Australian Air Force C17 transport plane with the first bodies of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO /ANP/Sander KONING -NETHERLANDS OUT- (Photo credit should read Sander KONING/AFP/Getty Images)
Pallbearers carry a coffin towards a hearse during a ceremony to mark the return of the first bodies, of passengers and crew killed in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, from Ukraine at Eindhoven military air base, Netherlands, Wednesday, July 23, 2014. After being removed from the planes, the bodies were taken in a convoy of hearses to a military barracks in the central city of Hilversum, where forensic experts will begin the painstaking task of identifying the bodies and returning them to their loved ones. (AP Photo/Phil Nijhuis)
Deputy general director of Air France-KLM airline company Camiel Eurlings (2-L) and Chief Operating officer at KLM Pieter Elbers (3-R) stand in front of flowers laid for the victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 at the Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam, on July 23, 2014. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on July 23 almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, with grieving relatives and the king and queen solemnly receiving the as yet unidentified victims. AFP PHOTO/ANP/Sander KONING -NETHERLANDS OUT- (Photo credit should read Sander KONING/AFP/Getty Images)
People look at the flowers left in remembrance for the victims of the MH17 plane crash at Schiphol Airport, near Amsterdam, on July 21, A Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 flight MH17 with more than 280 passengers, including 193 Dutch passengers on board crashed in eastern Ukraine on 17 July. A chorus of Kremlin-friendly media declared today that the truth about what happened to the Malaysian jet would likely never be found out, accusing the West of heaping the blame on Russia.AFP PHOTO / ANP / ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN Netherlands out (Photo credit should read ROBIN VAN LONKHUIJSEN/AFP/Getty Images)
The convoy of hearse carrying the bodies of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 arrives at Korporaal van Oudheusdenkazerne, a military establishment where the bodies will be examined and identified on July 23, 2014 in Hilversum. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO/ ANP/JEROEN JUMELET -NETHERLANDS OUT- (Photo credit should read JEROEN JUMELET/AFP/Getty Images)
A convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, drives from the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014, after a ceremony following the arrival of a Dutch Air Force C-130 Hercules plane and an Australian Royal Australian Air Force C17 transport plane with the first bodies of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP /REMKO DE WAAL ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
An aerial view taken on July 23, 2014 shows people standing on the side of the road as the convoy of hearses carrying the bodies of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 is on its way to Hilversum where the bodies will be examined. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO/ANP/JERRY LAMPEN netherlands out (Photo credit should read JERRY LAMPEN/AFP/Getty Images)
A convoy of hearses carrying coffins containing the remains of victims of the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, drive past flags fluying at half-mast while leaving the Eindhoven Airbase to Hilversum on July 23, 2014, after a ceremony following the arrival of a Dutch Air Force C-130 Hercules plane and an Australian Royal Australian Air Force C17 transport plane with the first bodies of the 298 victims of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 plane crash in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies from flight MH17 arrived in the Netherlands on Wednesday almost a week after it was shot down over Ukraine, as the conflict flared yet again near the Malaysian airliner's crash site. AFP PHOTO / ANP / VALERIE KUYPERS ** Netherlands Out ** (Photo credit should read VALERIE KUYPERS/AFP/Getty Images)
This photo taken on July 24, 2014 shows flowers laying at the Schiphol airport in tribute of the victims of the Malaysia Airlines' flight MH17 that crashed in eastern Ukraine. The first bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines plane that was downed over Ukraine were flown back on July 23 to the Netherlands where a national day of mourning had been declared. Dozens more bodies from the crash site are set to arrive in the Netherlands today, as the EU prepares to hit Russia with fresh sanctions. AFP PHOTO / ANP / REMKO DE WAAL ** Netherlands out ** (Photo credit should read REMKO DE WAAL/AFP/Getty Images)
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By Dorothee Thiesing and Mstyslav Chernov
EINDHOVEN, Netherlands (AP) -- Victims of the Malaysian jetliner shot down over Ukraine returned at last Wednesday to Dutch soil in 40 wooden coffins, solemnly and gently carried to 40 identical hearses, flags at half-staff flapping in the wind.

The carefully choreographed, nearly silent ceremony contrasted sharply with the boom of shells and shattered glass around eastern Ukraine as pro-Russian rebels fought Wednesday to hang onto territory - and shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets. The bold new attack showed they are not shying away from shooting at the skies despite international outrage and grief at the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

Even though they are still unidentified, the corpses that arrived in Eindhoven were embraced by a nation unmoored by the loss of so many people caught in someone else's faraway war.

Boys going to visit their grandparents, a flight attendant in a hurry to get home, a bouncer heading to see his sweetheart were among the 298 victims of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, whose downing last week has intensified anger at the pro-Russian rebels suspected of bringing the plane down.

Nearly a week later, international investigators still don't have unfettered access to the area, some remains are unrecovered, and armed men roam, defying their government.

Investigators in a lab in southern England began studying the plane's black box recorders Wednesday in hopes of finding clues to what happened. The Dutch Safety Board, which has taken control of the investigation, said the voice recorder suffered damage but showed no sign of manipulation, and its recordings were intact. Specialists will start studying the flight data recorder Thursday.

Bodies From Airplane Tragedy Arrive In Netherlands

Families of passengers moved to a new stage of grieving as the corpses started arriving in the Netherlands, the country that bore the heaviest death toll in the crash.

The families had spent days agonizing in wait while body parts decayed in sweltering Ukrainian fields before being gradually shifted by truck, train and plane to the Netherlands.

"If I have to wait five months for identification, I can do it," said Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand, whose son, Bryce, and his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers died in the crash. "Waiting while the bodies were in the field and in the train was a nightmare."

On a day of national mourning, flags flew at half-staff on Dutch government buildings and family homes around this nation of 17 million.

Church bells rang out around the country as the planes taxied to a standstill. King Willem-Alexander clasped his wife Queen Maxima's hand as the couple grimly watched teams carry the coffins slowly from the planes to a fleet of waiting hearses.

Almost the only sound was of boots marching across the ground and flags flapping in the wind.

Then as the last hearses drove away, applause briefly broke out.

From the airport, they were driven under military police escort to the central city of Hilversum where forensic experts were waiting at a military barracks to carry out the painstaking task of identifying the remains. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte says many bodies could be identified quickly and returned to their loved ones, but some families may have to wait weeks for a positive identification.

The rebels, undeterred, fought Wednesday to hold onto territory in eastern Ukraine and said they attacked two Ukrainian Air Force jets in the same area where the passenger plane fell.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry said the Su-25s were shot about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of the wreckage from the Malaysian jet. The separatist group Donetsk People's Republic said on its website that one of the pilots was killed and another was being sought by rebel fighters.

The attack revived questions about the rebels' weapons capabilities - and how much support and training they are getting from Russia. The U.S. accuses Russia of backing the separatists and fueling Ukraine's conflict, which has brought Russia's relations with the West and key trading partners in Europe to a two-decade low.

While the insurgents deny having missiles capable of hitting a jetliner at cruising altitude, rebel leader Alexander Borodai has said that separatist fighters do have Strela-10M ground-to-air missiles, which are capable of hitting targets up to an altitude of 3,500 meters (11,500 feet). They have shoulder-fired missiles with a smaller range.

The rebels also say they shot down an Antonov-26 early last week with a shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missile. The Ukrainian government is hinting that the Antonov was flying too high for the rebels to hit it, suggesting Russian involvement.

Rebel leader Pavel Gubarev wrote on his Facebook page that 30 rebels were injured and his men retreated Wednesday from the villages of Chervona Zorya and Kozhevnya, on the Russian border about 45 kilometers (30 miles) from the sunflower fields where the Malaysia Airlines plane fell.

The battles are complicating the investigation into the passenger jet crash.

Ukraine and Western nations are pressing the pro-Russian rebels who control the crash site to allow an unfettered investigation, something Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would use his influence to achieve. Though confident that a missile brought down the passenger jet, U.S. officials say Russia's role remains unclear. Russia denies involvement.

The Dutch Safety Board, which is leading an international team of 24 investigators, said unhindered access to the crash site was critical.

Spokesman Tjibbe Joustra told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that around 25 investigators are in Kiev analyzing information including photos, satellite images and radar information, but have not yet gained access to the crash site.

Body parts were spotted still at the crash site Wednesday, said Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine. He also described "significant puncture marks to the fuselage, almost a piercing mark."

Independent military analysts said the size, spread, shape and number of shrapnel impacts visible in an AP photograph of a piece of the wreckage all point to a missile system like the SA-11 Buk.

U.S. analysts have also concluded that an SA-11 was the likely weapon.

Konrad Muzyka, Europe and CIS armed forces analyst at IHS Jane's, said the high number of shrapnel holes in the debris meant that only a fragmentary warhead like the SA-11 could have been used. The fact the shrapnel holes are folded inwards confirmed that the explosion came from outside the plane, he added.

Justin Bronk, military sciences research analyst at the Royal United Services Institute, said "the size of shrapnel holes is fairly broad, in keeping with what you would expect from a large missile like the SA-11."

Residents in the rebel-held city of Donetsk swept broken glass Wednesday and tried to repair apartments damaged from shelling in recent days.

"The solution I see is to stop shooting. Then Europe and Russia should step in to help start talks," said resident Alexander Litvinkenko. "Nothing will be resolved by force."
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