Two MH17 victims' remains 'unlikely' to be found: Dutch minister

A sign reads "No entrance! There may be remains of the victims of flight MH17 crash".
A sign reads "No entrance! There may be remains of the victims of flight MH17 crash".REUTERS

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Chances of finding human remains of the last two victims of last year's MH17 air crash in Ukraine were "unlikely", Dutch Justice Minister Ard van der Steur said Tuesday.

International investigators have so far matched identities with the remains of 296 of the 298 victims on board the Malaysia Airlines flight.

The jetliner was shot down on June 17 last year in war-torn eastern Ukraine, where government troops are battling pro-Russian separatists, and all on board were killed.

"The last two victims have not been identified and unfortunately it's very unlikely this will be done," Van der Steur said in a letter to the Dutch Parliament.

Although the two victims - both Dutch - are known, investigators have found no remains at the crash site to match their DNA, despite several retrieval missions.

The last mission took place in April after an area became accessible as fighting between the parties in the conflict died down.

Van der Steur said he hoped that remains already identified would have been handed over to the grieving families by July 17 this year on the disaster's first anniversary.

The Dutch minister said all personal belongings found at the crash site would be returned by July except for a few cameras and laptops being used in the criminal investigation.

Kiev and the West claim that the plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists using a BUK surface-to-air missile supplied by Moscow.

Moscow in return points the finger at Kiev.

Dutch prosecutors said Tuesday they have identified many "persons of interest" in their probe into the downing of the plane, but no definite suspects had emerged so far.