MH17: Recovery workers begin clearing debris from Ukraine crash site

The debris from the wreckage has been lying at the site for four months

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The Independent Online

Recovery workers in rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine began clearing the wreckage and debris from the crash site of the Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 on Sunday, four months after the plane was brought down.

Dutch officials are overseeing the operation and the aircraft’s debris will be transported to the Netherlands for investigation.

Flight MH17 was shot down by a “large number of high-energy objects” during its journey from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17 July. All 298 people on board were killed.

Access to the site since the crash has been limited by the rebels and the on-going conflict in the Ukraine, causing delays to investigations and recovery operations, including marked delays in the recovery of passengers’ bodies in the immediate weeks after the crash.

Alexander Kostrubitsky, the head of the emergency services in the rebel-held areas of the Donetsk region, said at the site that gathering debris could take around 10 days.

The pieces of wreckage are being sawn into smaller pieces to facilitate transportation, Kostrubitsky added.

The Dutch Safety Board’s initial investigation into how the plane was downed says the Boeing 777 “broke up in the air probably as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside”.

Ukraine and the West have blamed the downing of the flight on Russian-backed separatists in the east of Ukraine, with many claiming it was a surface-to-air missile that hit the plane.

Russian state television recently released a satellite image that claims to show it was a Ukrainian fighter jet that shot down Flight MH17 using an air-to-air missile.

Several bloggers have called the photo out as a forgery, citing a cloud pattern that dates back to 2012, while the US government has dismissed the report as preposterous and others called it a crude fake.

Additional reporting by AP

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