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Independence of MH17 probe 'crucial'

Updated: 2014-09-30 11:23

THE HAGUE - Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte Monday emphasized the importance of an independent investigation into the MH17 jet crash in eastern Ukraine.

He made the remarks at a press conference here while responding to the Russian claims that the first preliminary report on the cause of the crash was biased.

Dutch Safety Board led the investigation into the cause of the crash of the Boeing 777-200 operated by Malaysia Airlines on July 17 this year.

On Sept 9 the board published its first preliminary report, concluding that the crash was caused by an external factor, probably "as the result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that penetrated the aircraft from outside."

Noting that "last Friday at the United Nations in New York we have seen that the Russians tried to say the interim-report was biased," he stressed that the report is "completely independent".

"I will make sure that it stays independent and that there will be no political interference with the report. When the results come out it has to be very clear evidence," he said.

Also, the Netherlands coordinates the criminal investigation into the crash, with the participation of all countries whose nationals are victims of the crash and justice organization Eurojust.

"This investigation is not led by us, but coordinated," Rutte said. "They can make use of results of independent inquiry, but there is no connection between the two investigations, because that would make the inquiry less independent."

Rutte said he didn't want to speculate on a possible prosecution of the persecutors by the International Criminal Court (ICC), which would mean a trial in The Hague.

"We take a step by step approach," said Rutte. "Let's first make sure that after the international criminal investigation we can pinpoint who has done this. Than we take the next step."

On Aug 6, the Dutch government decided to stop the recovery mission on the MH17 crash site until further notice due to the deteriorating security conditions in the area.

Rutte expressed hope that researchers of the mission will be able to return to the site before winter starts in eastern Ukraine for during winter an investigation is not possible.

"By the end of October the winter begins in that area, according to my information," Rutte said. "We hope it will be safe enough soon, because it is necessary to look further for human remains and personal belongings, but also to determine the cause of the plane crash and consequently answer the question who was responsible for the crash."

"Also, if they have to return after the winter it is still possible for them to do research, even for human remains," Rutte added. "But obviously it has my priority to go back to the crash site before the winter."

Rutte said the Dutch government is looking at the situation closely, adding that it's a hope that researchers can have at least a week to do their work. "There are still areas we haven't investigated yet. We have to await," he added.

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