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MH17 crash victims: First bodies arrive in Netherlands from Ukraine for formal identification

The Netherlands is holding a national day of mourning for victims

The first bodies recovered from the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine have arrived in the Netherlands today to begin the process of identification.

Two transport planes, one Dutch and one Australian, flew in to Holland's Eindhoven airport from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv carrying 40 coffins.

They touched down just before 3pm UK time and were met by Dutch king Willem-Alexander and queen Maxima, as well as the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

A minute's silence was held before hearses prepared to taken them from the airport to the Korporaal van Oudheusden barracks to be identified.

An unconfirmed number of bodies were released by the rebels yesterday and taken to the government-controlled city of Kharkiv in a refrigerated train carriage.

Video: The aftermath of MH17 crash

Meanwhile, the Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) confirmed the black boxes from the downed flight have been delivered to their headquarters at Farnborough in Hampshire.

The AAIB has been tasked with retrieving crucial data from the flight recorders for "international analysis" to determine the circumstances surrounding the plane crash.

A department spokesman said it would take 24 hours to download the data from each black box, but did not know whether the data from each could be downloaded simultaneously.

Earlier, thousands of social media users replaced their profile pictures for black squares to pay tribute to the victims of MH17.

The avatar blackout and hashtag #bringthemhome has been led by users in the Netherlands, where a day of mourning will be held today for the 298 passengers killed when the Boeing 777-200 was apparently shot down by a rocket. Some 193 of the victims were Dutch and 10 were British.

The trend began as a call for all of the bodies of victims to be repatriated as soon as possible and the hashtag has also been used by people in Australia, Britain and the US.

Mr Rutte has warned identifying the bodies could take “weeks, or even months”. The Dutch are leading the investigation into what happened to the Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur flight, at the request of the Ukrainian government.

A British team of police officers, led by the Metropolitan Police, will assist with victim identification in the Netherlands.

Prime Minister David Cameron announced Britain's Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is to retrieve data from the black boxes for "international analysis" after a request from the Dutch government.

On Tuesday, senior US intelligence officials claimed Russia was responsible for "creating the conditions" that led to the shooting down of MH17, but they offered no evidence of direct Russian government involvement.

Additional reporting by agencies