THE HAGUE (AFP) - Dutch forensics experts have returned to the site of downed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine on Friday, where they gathered body parts despite continued clashes in the area, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said.
"Today, the circumstances allowed for a small Dutch team... to travel to the crash site and we grabbed the opportunity with both hands," Rutte told journalists at his weekly press briefing in The Hague.
The Netherlands is charged with leading the investigation and the recovery and identification of victims' body parts from the July 17 Malaysia Airlines crash which killed all 298 on board, including 193 Dutch nationals.
Kiev and the West have claimed that the Boeing 777 was blown from the sky by separatist fighters using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Russia, but Moscow strongly denies the charges, pointing the finger back at Kiev.
So far, 289 victims have been identified, with Dutch authorities saying the task has become more difficult as less forensic material with DNA, dental or fingerprints is available.
The body parts collected on Friday will now be taken to the eastern Ukranian city of Kharkiv for a first check, before being repatriated to the Netherlands, Rutte said.
Dutch experts briefly returned to the crash site in pro-Moscow rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine earlier this month, but the Dutch government has repeatedly complained that they have not been granted full access.
Dutch forensic experts called off a full-scale search of the site in early August because of fighting between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in the area.
"The security situation at the crash site is constantly changing," said Rutte.
"One day it's relatively calm and the next its part of the front line where heavy fighting takes place," he said.