Local disaster response workers in eastern Ukraine began loading the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 onto trucks Monday for transport to the Netherlands and further examination in hopes of identifying the cause of the disaster, the Dutch Safety Board announced in a statement.
The debris from the July 17 disaster has only recently been inventoried and collected for relocation because of continued hostilities around the crash site, which is in a rural area of the Donetsk region that is under the control of pro-Russia separatists fighting Ukrainian troops.
A preliminary report in September by the Dutch-led international investigative team said the crash, which killed all 298 passengers and crew on board, was caused by the impact of "high-energy objects," consistent with being hit by a ground-to-air missile.
Hours after the jet exploded at 33,000 feet, Ukrainian military officials claimed to have intercepted radio communications between Russian and separatist commanders in the area whose exchange suggested the rebels had mistaken the civilian passenger jet for a Ukrainian military transport. The separatists and their Russian backers contend the plane was probably downed by an air-to-air missile, suggesting that the Ukrainian military was to blame.
More than two-thirds of those on board were citizens or residents of the Netherlands.
The Dutch government statement said the debris, which was spread across several square miles of farmland, would be taken to the Gilze Rijen Air Base in convoys over the next week. Once the relocation is completed, the plane will be partially reconstructed, the statement said.
MH-17 was en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, when it crashed while flying over the eastern Ukraine battlegrounds. The route had been used by numerous airlines for flights between Europe and Asia; until the disaster, the route had been considered safe for planes at cruising altitude.
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