November 26, 2014
First MH17 bodies flown in the Netherlands
The bodies of the first victims from a Malaysian airliner shot down over Ukraine last Thursday arrived back in the Netherlands today amid dignified grief tinged with anger.
Bells pealed and flags flew at half mast in memory of the 298 people killed when flight MH17 crashed in an area of eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists, in the first national day of mourning since wartime Queen Wilhelmina died in 1962.
King Willem-Alexander and Prime Minister Mark Rutte led dignitaries on the tarmac as two military aircraft carrying 40 plain wooden coffins landed at Eindhoven Airport in the southern Netherlands.
A military honour guard stood to attention as a lone trumpeter played The Last Post, the military funeral call for people killed in war.
After a minute's silence - observed in stations, factories, offices and streets across this stunned nation - soldiers and marines boarded the Dutch Hercules C-130 and Australian Boeing C-17 to carry the coffins to 40 waiting hearses lined up on the runway.
Relatives of some of the victims were present at the airport but were shielded from the media glare, officials said.
Amid US accusations that the rebels shot the civilian plane down in error with a Russian-supplied missile, an opinion poll showed an overwhelming majority of the Dutch want economic sanctions imposed on Moscow, even if it hurts their own economy.
Windmills around this low-lying coastal nation were set in a mourning position and church bells tolled as the planes carrying the remains arrived from Kharkiv, in eastern Ukraine, shortly before 4 p.m.
The remains of an unknown number of victims were transported in refrigerated rail carriages from the rebel-held part of Ukraine. Rutte has said that while some of the bodies may be identified immediately, it may take weeks or even months to complete the grim task.
With 193 of the dead from the Netherlands, Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans said almost every family in the country of 15 million knew someone who died or their relatives, contributing to a national mood of shock and sorrow.