Statement by Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, ead of the Dutch recovery mission


Kyiv, August 6, 2014 – Our mission to recover the victims of the crash of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 has been active in the Ukraine for over a week now. This civil, humanitarian mission consists of forensic experts and unarmed police officers.

We are very grateful that these experts are being given the opportunity to do their work. They are working to ensure that the victims’ next of kin receive their loved ones’ remains, and if possible their personal belongings, as quickly as possible. Repatriation is vital for the victims’ families, who need to have their loved ones returned to them.

For the sixth day in a row, up to 100 experts have been working at the crash site, accompanied by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The experts are using sniffer dogs to help them in their search.

Although we have many people working at the site, it will take time before all human remains and personal belongings have been recovered from the area. The mission is still not completed.

Our mission cannot succeed in its important task without the support of the regional and local authorities. We are very grateful for their assistance. We realise that this has further complicated an already complex situation. We wish especially to thank the Governor of the Kharkov region, Igor Baluta, and the Mayor of Soledar, Jurij Vasiljevich Tovstokorenko.

We are also grateful to the people of Soledar and Kharkiv, who have been extremely welcoming. In Soledar local residents have even been helping us on a voluntary basis with logistics and the preparation of meals. They are making our difficult job in the field a little easier and we thank them for their efforts.

In the past few days the mission’s experts have determined that parts of the crash site have been searched previously. This may partly explain why the team has not yet found significant amounts of human remains. It appears that local residents and emergency services conducted a search and recovered victims’ bodies and personal belongings.

As far as the experts can judge at this time, they did this in a careful and orderly fashion. We are very grateful for their help and their respectful approach. The help of these residents and emergency services contributed to the return of victims to The Netherlands earlier.

Today, we asked local residents near the crash site to help us again. We handed out flyers in Rozsypne asking people to bring any personal belongings of victims to the local playground. That way, we can collect these items and return them to the families. We greatly value any and all support we can get from people in the area.

We realise that the crash of flight MH17 has been a traumatic event for the people who live in the area of the disaster, too. For these residents, having parts of the aircraft fall on their village or even into their own back gardens has been a difficult experience. Their children cannot play outside while human remains and wreckage are still in the area, and crops cannot be harvested. It is therefore vital for the local residents, as it is for us, that what is left of the victims’ remains and personal belongings be returned as quickly as possible.

The tragic crash of MH17 has forged an unbreakable bond between our countries, which will endure long after this mission is ended. We have been touched by the welcome, the willingness to help and the emotional involvement of the people of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Soledar and Rozsypne.