MH17 flight investigators remove crucial debris

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Media captionWorkers removed parts of the plane and used cranes to load them onto lorries

Local workers have removed crucial debris and human remains from the crash site of the MH17 jet in rebel-held eastern Ukraine after months of delays.

The team, overseen by Dutch experts, targeted areas of the plane where most of the bodies are still unidentified.

The debris and remains will be taken to the Netherlands for examination.

The plane was shot down in July killing all 298 people on board - mostly Dutch nationals. Russia-backed rebels have been blamed, though they deny it.

Dutch experts oversaw workers from the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic cutting up parts of the plane and using cranes to load them onto lorries.

Inspectors from the Netherlands had wanted to retrieve the debris themselves, but agreed to work with the rebel administration as they feared for their safety.

Lack of security at the crash site, near the village of Grabove, led to weeks of delays, but a deal made with local militias this week allowed the removal work to begin on Sunday.

'Sensitive area'

The Dutch Safety Board said in a statement that the recovery operation would take several days, adding that the wreckage would assist "the investigation into the cause of the crash".

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Access to the crash site has been limited by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Investigators plan to reconstruct part of the aircraft

The Dutch experts said they would not recover all of the wreckage, but instead would concentrate on the most important pieces of debris.

Michael Bociurkiw, spokesman for the OSCE monitoring body, told the BBC the team was trying to recover the wheels, wings and fuel tanks.

He said this area "coincides with the part of the aircraft where most of the passengers have not been identified".

"So obviously it's a very, very sensitive work area," he added.

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Media captionNew amateur footage purports to show the immediate aftermath of the MH17 crash

A majority of those who died in the disaster were from the Netherlands, and the Dutch government has taken the lead in the investigation.

In September, a preliminary report by Dutch teams concluded the plane was hit by a large number of "high-energy objects", but did not blame anyone.

Ukraine and Western countries have accused pro-Russian rebels of shooting the plane down with a Russian-made missile, an accusation which Russia denies.

The plane was hit as it flew from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

The disaster came just months after another Malaysia Airlines plane, MH370, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.