40 members of Dutch military police to join efforts in Ukraine

Prime Minister Mark Rutte held a press conference on the Ukraine air disaster at 20:15 on Thursday evening. Mr Rutte said the Dutch government would have to operate cautiously, while at the same time maintaining a great sense of urgency. 'We're now exploring options to further stabilise the area so that we can bring back the bodies of the remaining victims,' he said. 'We're also seeking ways to strengthen our commitment on the ground so that we can do our work properly.'

Rutte:

Good evening. Yesterday was a day of national mourning, an opportunity for the people of the Netherlands to express their grief, which so many did across the country. With a sense of great sorrow, they stood resolutely side by side with the families of those who lost their lives in this tragedy. An immensely poignant moment yesterday came with the arrival on Dutch soil of the remains of the first 40 victims. This afternoon saw a further 74 coffins containing remains arrive in Eindhoven. Like yesterday, they were carried by pall bearers to the awaiting hearses, which then proceeded in convoy to a medical military facility in Hilversum. Many thousands of people lined the route to pay their respects.

In the days ahead, at least until Saturday, the remains of more victims will be brought to the Netherlands, following the same ceremony of dignity and respect in each case.

Now the first victims have returned, we will continue to focus on our 3 main objectives: bringing back all of the victims, achieving clarity on the cause of the disaster and bringing those responsible to justice. Let me update you on what we're doing right now and what our plans are for the coming days.

As you know, the international context in which we must operate is unclear and the security situation in eastern Ukraine is very fluid. This means that the Dutch government has to act cautiously, while at the same time maintaining a great sense of urgency. We're now exploring options to further stabilise the area so that we can bring back the bodies of the remaining victims. The government is submitting a letter of notification to parliament with a view to exploring modalities for support in implementing the UN Security Council resolution adopted last Monday.

Besides looking at how we can create a stable environment, we're also seeking ways to strengthen our commitment on the ground so that we can do our work properly. Now that the air bridge operation is fully up and running, 2 experts from the Dutch National Forensic Investigation Team are making their way back to the crash site, where they will resume their investigation tomorrow. A further 7 people will leave from Kharkiv tomorrow, followed by another 7 on Saturday and another 7 on Sunday. They will search for victims and examine the crash site. Tomorrow they will receive reinforcement from 40 unarmed members of the Dutch military police, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. Those at the crash site will liaise with OSCE monitors and work with forensic and investigation workers from several other countries.

As regards the number of victims still at the scene, there are now 203 body bags. However, this says very little about the actual number of victims recovered. This requires forensic analysis, which is currently being carried out in Hilversum. So there are 203 body bags, but I should stress once again that this does not give any indication of the number of victims recovered. It is very likely that there are still remains in the crash area. In Hilversum, a team of over 200 international experts are working to identify the bodies of the victims, which began arriving there yesterday. Earlier today, foreign minister Frans Timmermans was in Kyiv to sign the decision that puts the Netherlands officially in charge of the crash investigation and arranges for identification of the victims here in the Netherlands.

I can now tell you that the number of Dutch victims has risen from 193 to 194 after it emerged that one woman had dual German and Dutch nationality.

Thank you.