MH17 investigators to visit former Ukraine battleground

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Investigators and salvage crews are returning to the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash site again next week in Eastern Ukraine to ensure the recovery of the last human remains, personal belongings of the victims and fragments of the plane, Deputy Prime Minister Lodewijk Asscher announced on Friday. For the first time, the team can access the northwest area of the crash site where they could not work until now for safety reasons caused by the ongoing battle between the Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist forces, Asscher said after the cabinet meeting.

Combined with a long winter, the fighting made it impossible for workers to enter the mountainous areas of the debris site. The situation has improved significantly, Dutch observers said.

The Boeing jet took off from Amsterdam on July 17 headed for Kuala Lumpur, but disintegrated in mid-air before falling to the ground, killing 298 people, 193 of whom were Dutch citizens. Dutch investigators are now working under the hypothesis that a Russian-made BUK missile hit the aircraft over Eastern Ukraine, and that it was possibly launched by either Russians or separatists. The Dutch prosecution recently received several tips about the perpetrators after asking witnesses to come forward in a multilingual outreach.

The research team will do its best to collect every remaining piece of the crash, but Asscher would not rule out the possibility of more evidence collection and at a later date. Local authorities have made agreements about any further findings, according to Deputy Prime Minister.

"Of course they will be returned to the Netherlands with the usual ceremony," Asscher stated.

It is not yet known when the team will visit the site next week, a Defense spokesperson told the Telegraaf. More items were collected in the region for return to the Netherlands over the past several days.

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