King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima unveil a monument inscribed with the victims’ names. (Reuters: Remko de Waal/Pool)
A memorial for the victims of the Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 shot down over Ukraine three years ago has been unveiled near an airport in the Netherlands.
The memorial is 298 trees — one for each person who perished, including 38 Australians — planted in the shape of a ribbon near Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam where the flight took off for Kuala Lumpur.
The trees, symbolising hope and the future, surround a curved steel wall sculpture and are encircled by a ring of sunflowers.
In September last year, a Dutch-led investigation team concluded a Buk missile brought across the border from Russia into a Ukrainian village controlled by pro-Russian separatists shot down MH17.
Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima were among the dignitaries in attendance at Monday’s ceremony along with some 2,000 people commemorating loved ones.
Michael Bociurkiw a former spokesperson for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Europe, was in Amsterdam and had walked around the memorial.
The OSCE was the group that facilitated the work of investigators at the crash site. In 2014, Mr Bociurkiw was at the scene 20 hours after the plane was shot down and stayed in the field for three weeks.
Mr Bociurkiw said the memorial would be a peaceful place relatives and friends could remember those who died.
The Dutch king and his wife passed around sunflowers with relatives of the MH17 victims. (Reuters: Remko de Waal)
“It covers a wide area, basically it is modelled after the black ribbon that was … the icon for MH17,” he said.
“The 298 trees were planted by relatives on the 18th and 25th of March and of course each of the trees symbolises every victim.”
An artist impression of the MH17 monument in Vijfhuizen near Schiphol. (Source: Stichting Nationaal Monument MH17)
“Every victim’s life will now live on metaphorically through these trees.
“Sunflowers are not only a symbol of Ukraine, but a lot of the crash site was in an area where there were a lot of sunflowers.
“So this site … will be a place where now finally relatives, friends and others can come to think about the victims, think about what happened.”
Investigation team to name 100 suspects
Reconstruction of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 as seen from the front. (Supplied: Dutch Safety Board)
On July 5 the MH17 Joint Investigation Team signalled its intent to press charges against those who perpetrated the crime.
The decision to prosecute was made jointly by the Australian, Belgian, Malaysian, Ukraine and Netherlands governments.
Mr Bociurkiw said it was significant the Dutch have assumed jurisdiction over criminal trial which would be held in the Netherlands.
He said the joint investigation team had an “incredible” amount of evidence and are on the verge of naming 100 suspects.
“We can be pretty sure that those 100 suspects are all in Russia or in territories in Ukraine controlled by the Russian-backed rebels,” he said.
“The big question is whether Russia will give up it’s own citizens for trial? That’s doubtful as it is in it’s constitution they don’t do this.”