Koenders positive about Kharkiv mission’s efforts

Minister of Foreign Affairs Bert Koenders was in Kharkiv on Saturday to witness the departure of five coffins carrying the remains of victims of the MH17 air disaster. Mr Koenders was moved by the quiet and dignified ceremony on the airfield in eastern Ukraine.

‘It was profoundly moving to see the coffins being carried into the aircraft. The repatriation mission has done all it can to make this possible, and I’m deeply grateful to those working on the ground. I hope that returning these victims’ remains offers some comfort to their next of kin,’ said the minister.

Mr Koenders also spoke with the Governor of Kharkiv Oblast, Ihor Baluta, thanking him for his help with the mission in the face of the difficult circumstances in eastern Ukraine. The two men visited the facility where remains and personal belongings undergo initial forensic analysis before being brought to the Netherlands for identification.

‘This shows how committed the mission team members are. In a very short time they were able to begin all the procedures needed to bring victims’ remains home as quickly as possible. They are doing extremely important work,’ noted Mr Koenders. The minister was accompanied on his visit by the head of the repatriation mission, Pieter-Jaap Aalbersberg.

This afternoon Mr Koenders will travel to Kyiv, where he will meet with his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Klimkin and representatives from the OSCE. ‘The Netherlands and Ukraine have been brought together in the aftermath of the disaster. I feel it is vital that we continue to work together. This is why I wanted to travel to Ukraine as soon as possible after taking office,’ he said.