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Malaysia Airlines MH17: Relatives Mark 1st Anniversary of Disaster

Residents of the Ukrainian village where a Malaysian airliner was shot down with 298 people aboard a year ago marched Friday to the crash site.
/ Source: Associated Press

HRABOVE, Ukraine — In a solemn procession, residents of the Ukrainian village where a Malaysian airliner was shot down with 298 people aboard a year ago marched Friday to the crash site. Half a world away, Australia's prime minister remembered the "savagery" of the attack as he unveiled a plaque in Canberra set in soil from the field where the wreckage fell.

The two ceremonies come amid a sharp dispute over who was responsible for downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on July 17, 2014, when it was shot down over rebel-held eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian and Western authorities say the plane was downed, most likely by mistake, by a missile fired either by the separatists or the Russian troops who they say back the rebels with weapons and manpower.

A preliminary report released in the Netherlands last year said the plane had no technical problems in the seconds before it broke up in the sky after being struck an object that could have been a missile.

Several weeks before the plane was shot down, Russia-backed separatists had bragged about acquiring a missile system and had downed several Ukrainian military aircraft in eastern Ukraine, killing 49 people in one incident.

The rebels and Moscow say the separatists had no such missile systems at their disposal and that the plane was hit by a Ukrainian warplane or a Ukrainian-fired missile.

In the eastern Ukrainian village of Hrabove, 200 residents carrying flowers gathered in a church for a memorial service and a procession Friday to nearby fields organized by local leaders and the Russia-backed rebels who control the area.

The procession mainly consisted of women and children who carried icons and chanted Orthodox liturgical music, with perimeter of the march guarded by men in Soviet military uniforms.

The United Nations says at least 6,400 people have been killed since the separatist conflict began in eastern Ukraine in April 2014.

Speaking in Kiev late Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said flight was the victim of a "terrorist attack launched from the territory occupied by Russian-backed militants in the east of Ukraine."

In Canberra on Friday, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott unveiled a plaque, set in soil that a police officer brought back from Ukraine, listing 40 victims "who called Australia home."

"He knew that the place where MH17 came to rest was sacred and that a piece of it should come back to Australia," Abbott said. "It was a humane and decent thing for him to know and do. It was a contrast to the savagery that brought down the plane."

Abbott on Friday called the video "an atrocity" and said he was confident the plane was shot down by weaponry brought across the border from Russia.