MH17 victims remembered one year on

In a solemn procession, residents of the Ukrainian village where a Malaysian airliner was shot down with 298 people aboard a year ago marched to the crash site. Half a world away, Australia’s prime minister remembered the “savagery” of the attack as he unveiled a plaque in Canberra set in soil from the field where the wreckage fell.

MH17 victims remembered one year on

The two ceremonies came 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, when it was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian and western authorities say the plane was downed, most likely by mistake, by a missile fired either by the separatists or the Russian troops who they say back the rebels with weapons and manpower.

A preliminary report released in the Netherlands last year said the plane had no technical problems in the seconds before it broke up in the sky after being struck by an object that could have been a missile.

Several weeks before the plane was shot down, Russia-backed separatists had bragged about acquiring a missile system and had downed several Ukrainian military aircraft in eastern Ukraine, killing 49 people in one incident.

The rebels and Moscow say the separatists had no such missile systems at their disposal and that the plane was hit by a Ukrainian warplane or a Ukrainian-fired missile.

Yesterday in the eastern Ukrainian village of Hrabove, 200 residents carrying flowers gathered in a church for a memorial service and a procession to nearby fields organised by local leaders and the Russia-backed rebels who control the area.

The procession mainly consisted of women and children who carried icons and chanted Orthodox liturgical music, with the perimeter of the march guarded by men in Soviet military uniforms.

They joined about 100 others, who were carrying separatist flags and those from the countries of the victims, to stand by a small stone at the crash site that 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.

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.

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