Dozens of villagers carried flowers and lit candles on Sunday (17 July) at the site in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, where flight MH17 crashed two years ago, killing all 298 people on board.
About 60 people joined the vigil on the small square of the village of Petropavlivka where some of the remains and personal belongings of passengers on the Malaysia Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur fell to the ground in 2014.
Some youngsters from the village — still controlled by pro-Russian separatists fighting pro-Western government forces — also carried paper planes in memory of children killed in the downing of the plane.
“Some of the relatives of people who were killed phoned us and asked us to find things that were valuable for them, for example, the toys that belonged to children aboard,” village council head Natalia Voloshina told AFP.
The families of the 298 people who died when flight MH17 was downed over Ukraine are steeling themselves for a slew of bitter legal battles, on the eve of the tragedy’s second anniversary.
Local residents continue to find small fragments of the jet’s wreckage in the nearby forests, she said.
Some of the small pieces of wreckage that have not yet been handed over to Dutch investigators were stacked outside Voloshina’s office to mark the anniversary.
The majority of the dead were Dutch citizens and many relatives are planning legal action against the airline and others they blame for the downing of MH17, including separatists and their backers.
In October, an international inquiry concluded that the Boeing 777 was shot down on July 17, 2014 by a Russian-made BUK surface-to-air missile fired from a zone held by pro-Russian separatists.
France on Monday (20 June) called for EU leaders to have a full discussion on the future of economic sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine, even though they are expected to be rolled over shortly.
But the investigation stopped short of saying who was responsible for the jet downing, and initial findings of a Dutch criminal inquiry into who shot down the plane are expected to be presented in early autumn.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Sunday vowed that “the perpetrators of this tragedy must be punished”.
“Jointly with our partners, we are doing everything necessary to bring those guilty to justice,” Poroshenko said in a statement on his website.
The separatist authorities deny responsibility, saying that Ukrainian forces were to blame for the attack.
The European Union in early July formally extended damaging economic sanctions against Russia by six months due to lack of progress in resolving the conflict in eastern Ukraine.