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Malaysia Mourns as First MH17 Crash Bodies Return Home

Malaysia is observing a day of mourning Friday to remember the victims of July’s Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine, while the cause of the tragedy remains unknown.

MOSCOW, August 22 (RIA Novosti) – Malaysia is observing a day of mourning Friday to remember the victims of July’s Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine, while the cause of the tragedy remains unknown.

A plane carrying the bodies of 20 Malaysian victims of flight MH17 arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. The plane was met by Malaysian King Abdul Halim, Prime Minister Najib Razak and other dignitaries accompanied by a minute of silence at the airport.

"Today we mourn the loss of our people. Today, we begin to bring them home," Najib said in a statement.

The flight arrived from Amsterdam, where the remains were taken for identification by Dutch authorities, who are leading investigations into the disaster.

The repatriation was the first of the Malaysian passengers and crew on the flight. The government has said that the bodies of the remaining Malaysians would return home soon, hopefully on Sunday.

The observance was followed by a nationwide minute of silence. Flags flew at half-mast and newspapers covered their front pages in black to honor the 20 victims.

The day of mourning was the first ever to be held by Malaysia for ordinary citizens.

Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine on July 17 en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing all 298 people on board, including 193 Dutch nationals, 43 Malaysians and 27 Australians.

Over a month has passed since the crash but most of experts agree that the cause of the catastrophe will never be known.

The investigation into the circumstances of the crash is seriously obstructed by clashes between independence supporters and Ukrainian forces in the region surrounding the wreckage.

Earlier in August, Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said that a preliminary report on the black box from the MH17 crash is expected to be handed over to the United Nations in September.

Earlier, Russian UN envoy Vitaly Churkin requested an official report on the progress of the investigation into the crash, referring to Resolution 2166, adopted by the UN Security Council in July. The document calls for a thorough and impartial investigation into the MH17 tragedy and requires the secretary-general to provide the Security Council with investigation progress reports.

Ukrainian authorities claim independence supporters in the turbulent Donetsk Region shot down the plane, a claim that Washington and a number of European leaders backed. The leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, however, said local militia did not have the required means to shoot down a target flying at an altitude of 32,000 feet.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin compared Washington's hasty conclusions on the cause of the crash to its statement on Iraq's possession of weapons of mass destruction made years ago.

On July 21, the Russian Defense Ministry said a Ukrainian fighter jet was detected at a distance of 3 to 5 kilometers (1.8 to 3.1 miles) from the Malaysian passenger plane shortly before it crashed in eastern Ukraine. In addition, MH17 crashed within the operating zone of the Ukrainian Army’s self-propelled, medium-range surface-to-air Buk missile systems, the Russia military claimed.

An aviation services source told RIA Novosti that it is strange that no reports have been made on projectiles. Indeed, if flight MH17 was downed by an anti-aircraft missile system, than “not one, not two, but thousands” of projectiles should have been already found by analysts.

The source did not rule out the investigation team calling this version of events behind the crash false or that projectiles have been concealed.

Either way, investigations will not be completed for another year, Vitaly Bordunov, a specialist from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), told RIA Novosti.

Article 26 of the Chicago Convention and ICAO Annex 13 provides guidance to ICAO member states. According to these recommendations, investigators should conduct crash investigations for up to a year, according to Bordunov.

The aviation specialist underlined that the MH17 crash is a very difficult case and that all ICAO recommendations have been already neglected. Authorities did not provide investigators with access to the crash site in a timely manner and the commission of inquiry into the crash was not convened within two weeks of the accident, as recommended by the rules, so the investigation may drag on for a longer period, Bordunov concluded.

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