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World

AFP
July 18, 2017

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Families unveil ‘memorial’

Families unveil ‘memorial’

Three years after Flight MH17 was shot down by a missile over war-torn Ukraine, nearly 2,000 relatives gathered on Monday to unveil a "living memorial" to their loved ones.

A total of 298 trees have been planted in the shape of a green ribbon, one for each of the victims who died on board the Malaysia Airlines flight en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima joined government and international officials at a solemn ceremony to dedicate the memorial in the park of Vijfhuizen, close to Amsterdam´s Schiphol airport where the flight took off from on July 17, 2014.

The names of all the 298 passengers and crew killed in the disaster were read out by their emotional families, and the Dutch royals and others laid flowers. While most of the victims were Dutch, there were 17 nationalities on board including Australians, Britons, Malaysians and Indonesians.

"It´s three years to the day that MH17 was shot down in mid-air," said Evert van Zijtveld, the head of association of the victims´ families. "But for us it was yesterday. That day... left a void in our lives. There is a life before and after July 17, 2014.

"These victims can never be forgotten," he said. "This monument is for now and for future generations." "A tree symbolises ´hope´ and ´future´ in many cultures," the victims´ families association said in a statement.

"We not only want to honour the MH17 victims, but also want to create a place where everyone can keep their memories of the 298 passengers alive." Funded by donations, the project was designed by artist Ronald A Westerhuis and landscape architect Robbert de Koning after it was chosen out of three proposals by relatives in late 2015. As the third anniversary of the tragedy dawns, no suspects have been arrested although it was announced this month that any trials will be held in The Netherlands.

About 100 people are wanted in connection with the disaster, after Dutch-led investigators concluded the plane was shot down by a Russian-made BUK missile transported from Russia into areas held by pro-Moscow rebels.

In Kiev, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Monday insisted Moscow must be held to account over the tragedy. "It was a barefaced crime that could have been avoided if not for the Russian aggression, Russian system and Russian missile that came from Russian territory," Poroshenko wrote on Facebook.

Russia and the separatist authorities it supports, however, continue to deny any involvement and have sought repeatedly to deflect the blame onto Ukraine. The trees in the memorial will be surrounded by sunflowers, which bloom in July, and will "radiate a golden glow", the foundation said.

The flowers also represent "the sunflower fields in eastern Ukraine where some parts of the plane wreckage were found". Each of the trees bears the name of one of the victims. And at the heart of the forest of 11 different tree varieties is a steel memorial shaped like an eye, turned upwards looking at the skies.

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