Despite fighting, Dutch experts help recover MH17 crash items

Members of the recovery team work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Members of the recovery team work at the site where the downed Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crashed, near the village of Hrabove (Grabovo) in Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine on Oct 13, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

HRABOVE (REUTERS) - Four Dutch police experts visited the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 on Monday to help recover belongings and human remains despite fighting nearby in east Ukraine.

The experts were on hand to advise a Ukrainian Emergencies Ministry team combing the wreckage in the fields where the plane was brought down on July 17, killing all 298 passengers and crew, a Reuters correspondent on the scene said.

Two-thirds of the victims were Dutch nationals.

As smoke rose from above trees about five km away, despite a ceasefire, the team collected items including books, toothpaste, playing cards, a plastic watch and a stick of antiperspirant but many were too badly burned to identify.

Dutch forensics teams in the Netherlands have identified 272 victims of the crash, but there are still believed to be remains in the area.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday he was furious that Dutch investigators had been unable to finish work in the area because of fighting between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces.

A ceasefire has been in force since Sept 5 in the conflict that has killed more than 3,500 people but fighting has continued sporadically in some areas.

The aircraft, which was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, is widely believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from territory held by pro-Russian separatists. Kiev blames the incident on the rebels and accuses Moscow of arming them. The rebels and Moscow deny the accusations.