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Emergency Services Start Collecting MH17 Wreckage

Local emergency services in eastern Ukraine have begun collecting parts of the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 from its crash site in the middle of the conflict zone, Dutch air accident investigators said.

Dutch inspectors had hoped to collect the parts themselves, but they remain concerned about the safety of their staff in the rebel-held conflict zone, and have decided to work with local services following an initial focus on finding human remains and belongings.

The crash of flight MH17 stirred angry mutual accusations between Moscow and the West over who was responsible.

The Dutch Safety Board said it had commissioned Ukraine's State Emergency Service to collect parts of the wreckage from the crash site on its behalf.

The air safety inspectorate intends to reconstruct parts of the airliner in the Netherlands in order to ascertain the cause of the crash.

"The crash area is large, so we do not intend to recover all the wreckage," said Safety Board spokesman Wim van der Weegen. "We've got a specific number of items we would like to recover."

Dutch authorities are leading both the air accident and criminal investigation into the downing of the Kuala Lumpur-bound Boeing 777 from Amsterdam.

But the government has faced growing criticism from victims' families and parliament members for lack of progress in the investigation.

Kiev accuses pro-Russian separatists of shooting down the plane. Russia says a Ukrainian military aircraft shot down MH17.

Around a dozen Dutch officials are at the site supervising the work of Ukrainian emergency services, including two Safety Board employees, van der Weegen said.

The board said the initial collection would take a few days depending on fighting and weather conditions, and that wreckage would first be stored near the crash site before being taken to the regional capital Kharkiv to be flown to the Netherlands.

An interim report published in September which was based on data from the aircraft's data recorders, photographic and radar evidence, and satellite imagery, said the Boeing 777 was brought down by "high energy objects" in its vicinity -- consistent with attack from the air or the ground.

(Reuters)