Press statement by Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg, head of the recovery mission

For the second day in a row, our international team was able to carry out our search and recovery work at the site where flight MH17 crashed just over two weeks ago. We would like to thank all parties that have once again facilitated our access to the crash site. This is of great importance to the international police officers, the experts and, especially, the victims’ families.

The team of Dutch and Australian experts left around six o’clock this morning from Soledor, our new base of operations, located to the north of the crash site. Escorted by the OSCE, they arrived at the site around ten-thirty. This was earlier than on previous days when the team was leaving from Donetsk. As a result, the experts had more time to devote to their work.

The 70 police officers and experts continued to search the area around the chicken farm near the village of Grabovo. Today they were aided in their efforts by two sniffer dogs. Yesterday, they managed to cover a 5x5-metre demarcated patch of ground in two hours. Today, because they had more time, the experts were able to comb through a bigger area. They again found human remains and personal belongings.

These discoveries were recovered in accordance with protocol. Today, we had a refrigerated lorry on site. All the remains were placed inside the vehicle to be transported to Kharkiv at the end of the day.

Around noon, there was mortar fire at a considerable distance from the police officers and experts at the chicken farm. The OSCE did not deem this to be a threat to the team. The activities on site have not been interrupted.

Around four o’clock the search was halted for the day, and the team returned to Soledor. The entire area around the chicken farm has now been searched.

The objects and remains found at the site will be taken in the refrigerated lorry to Kharkiv, which serves as our logistical centre. The DNA material and personal belongings that had been stored at the mortuary in Donetsk will also be taken to Kharkiv, along with the lorry.

There, Dutch, Australian and Malaysian experts and others stand ready to perform an initial forensic scan on the recovered remains. This scan will be carried out in the same way as was done with the remains previously brought to the Netherlands.

The forensic experts in Kharkiv are working in a dedicated storage facility. They wear protective suits, head coverings, gloves, mouth masks and safety glasses to ensure that the recovery and identification operation proceeds as smoothly as possible. The experts scan the material recovered from the site, ascertain whether everything has been properly packed, and register everything that comes in.

Tomorrow our goal is to move the search to an area northeast of the village of Rozsypne, where pieces of wreckage from the aircraft have been found.

As announced, the mission will be further expanded. On Monday, if the security situation allows, five teams, consisting of 20 experts each, will be involved in search and recovery activities. At that point the mission will be at full strength.