Europe

Flight MH17: Nine crash victims still unaccounted for

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Media captionThe Dutch foreign minister says it is possible the last nine victims will never be recovered, as David Stern reports

Nine of the 298 victims of July's MH17 crash in eastern Ukraine are still unaccounted for, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has said.

He was speaking after a ceremony in Kharkiv as another five coffins with remains were flown to the Netherlands.

The Boeing 777 Malaysian Airlines was flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur when it crashed in territory held by pro-Russian rebels.

The majority of the victims - 193 - were Dutch.

Both rebels and their supporters in Russia have denied shooting the aircraft down.

Investigators have struggled to gain access to the site as clashes continue nearby between Ukrainian government forces and the separatists.

Security concerns

Mr Koenders said experts had already come "a long way" with the identification process and would do everything they could to find more remains.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The identification process is taking place at Hilversum in the Netherlands
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Investigators say the plane was probably hit by a surface-to-air missile

"We cannot say at this moment in any certain way... at what moment and even if we can recover the last nine, but we will do everything we can in co-operation with authorities here to make that happen," he said, quoted by AFP news agency.

He added that investigators still hoped to recover more remnants of the plane, but it was unclear when this would happen because of uncertainties about the security situation.

Initial investigations at the site were suspended in August because of heavy fighting in the area.

They resumed in September after a ceasefire deal was signed, with experts making four visits to the site.

A report issued in September by Dutch investigators found MH17 was hit by multiple "high-energy" objects.

The report did not apportion blame but it is believed to have been hit by a surface-to-air missile fired from an area controlled by pro-Russian rebels.

Russian officials have denied the allegations and instead suggested Ukrainian fighter jets were culpable.