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​Ukrainians, Australian Kin Mark Year Since MH17 Downing

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Image 0Residents of the Ukrainian village where a Malaysian airliner was shot down with 298 people aboard a year ago joined a procession to the crash site on Friday, while Australia's prime minister remembered the "savagery" of the disaster as he unveiled a plaque in Canberra that's set in soil from where the wreckage fell.

The two ceremonies come amid a sharp dispute over who was responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014.

Ukrainian and Western authorities say the plane was downed by a missile fired either by rebels or Russian troops who allegedly back them.

The rebels and Moscow say it was hit by a Ukrainian warplane or a Ukrainian-fired missile.

In Hrabove, about 200 residents carrying flowers gathered in a church for a memorial service and procession to nearby fields organized by local leaders and the Russia-backed separatist rebels who control the area.

The procession mainly consisted of women and children, who carried icons and chanted Orthodox liturgical music. The perimeter of the procession was guarded by men in Soviet military uniforms. About 100 people carried the flags of the countries of the victims as well as the separatist flags stood by a small stone at the crash site which bore a plaque saying: "To the memory of 298 dead, innocent victims of the civil war."

Some of the mourners held banners, accusing the Kiev government of waging a war on them and likening the MH17 victims to those killed in indiscriminate shelling in the past year and a half. "They killed you, but our people still get killed," one banner said.

Speaking in Kiev late on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said flight was the victim of a "terrorist attack launched from the territory occupied by Russian-backed militants in the east of Ukraine."

"The advanced weapon with which (the) aircraft was shot down could have come to the hands of terrorists only from Russia," he said in a late night address on local television. "It would not have happened without the participation and an order from top political and military leaders of the neighboring state."

In Canberra, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled a plaque, set in soil that a police officer brought back from Ukraine, listing 40 victims "who called Australia home."

"He knew that the place where MH17 came to rest was sacred and that a piece of it should come back to Australia," Abbott said.

Abbott and his wife laid a wreath at the base of the plaque. Dozens of family members of the victims followed, many in tears as they added their flowers alongside the wreath. Some kissed the bouquets before they placed them, others kissed their fingers and pressed them against the plaque.

In the Netherlands, hundreds of relatives of those killed on MH17 were gathering Friday afternoon at a conference center near the central city of Utrecht, an event organizaed by the relatives themselves. It was planned to feature music, dance and the reading out of the names of all 298 victims.

Flags on government buildings around the country hardest hit in the disaster — 196 of the victims were Dutch nationals — were flying at half-staff throughout the day.

Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine have asked the U.N. Security Councilto establish an international criminal tribunal to prosecute those responsible for shooting down the plane.

Russia, which holds a veto on the Security Council, opposes setting up a tribunal. Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday said that setting up a tribunal would not make sense while the investigation continued.


July 17 2015, 14:30

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